At a surprise event at Levi’s Stadium on Oct. 19, Chevron executive Mike Wirth told 100 teachers across the country, including 50 from Bay Area schools, that each of their grant requests for STEM-related projects (science, technology, engineering and math) would be funded by Chevron as part of the company’s Fuel Your School program. Right after his announcement, the teachers were given a tour of a state-of-the-art, Chevron-sponsored STEM classroom at the stadium.
Later in the week, Wirth participated in the 50 Tour: Champions of the Bay presented by Chevron, which brought the eight Vince Lombardi Bay Area Super Bowl trophies and the Chevron STEM Zone (pictured above) to John F. Kennedy Jr. Park in Richmond. Children and volunteers who helped to rebuild the park that day could enjoy fun activities while learning how STEM is connected to everyday life, such as football.
And in September, the largest digital fabrication laboratory on any K-12 campus in the U.S., funded by Chevron, had a grand opening at Kennedy High.
While science teachers will often tell you that STEM is all around us, that has been especially true with companies like Chevron making a significant push in recent years to ensure that today’s elementary school students are prepared for the modern jobs of tomorrow.
Chevron has joined efforts by U.S. government officials, including the Obama Administration, to spark interest among youth in lucrative STEM jobs that are rising in number but lacking in the number of Americans who can fill them.
STEM jobs are growing at 1.7 times the rate of non-STEM jobs, but just 16-percent of high school seniors are interested in pursuing STEM careers, according to a CNN Money report from last year, citing data by the U.S. Department of Education.
The push to prepare youth for the STEM-related jobs of the future is happening nationally but especially in Richmond, where Chevron’s Refinery hopes to provide its local neighbors with the tools needed to become future employees.
“Chevron’s always had a commitment to the STEM disciplines because they are so important to our business and to having a workforce that’s prepared to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow,” said Wirth (pictured below at a STEM Zone exhibit in Richmond).
Since 2013, the company has invested $250 million in education initiatives globally.
“The Unites States is not graduating enough engineers to meet the demand for engineers in our country,” Wirth said. “It’s really a matter of importance to the country in terms of being able to compete.”
Along with its partnership with the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium, the company has teamed with the Oakland A’s to offer STEM Zones at games. Last year, A’s player Sonny Gray passed out “Science of the Game” workbooks to Richmond elementary school students. The youth workbooks, produced by Chevron and the Oakland A’s, use fun subjects like athletics to offer young people an appreciation of STEM concepts. This past June, Chevron hosted a STEM learning baseball clinic at the O.co Coliseum (see photo below of Richmond native Shooty Babitt coaching at the event.).
The company last year also sponsored a similar STEM golf academy for young West County girls at Harding Park in San Francisco. It also recruits young science whizzes from local high schools for paid internships at the Chevron Technology Center in Richmond.
And that includes a push to ensure girls are part of the country’s future STEM-related workforce, Wirth said. The company has sponsored programs aimed at promoting diversity in the male-dominated fields. Last year, Wirth made a direct plea to girls at Peres Elementary that their contributions are direly needed for the country’s future.
“All the research shows us that young girls who are good at science or math at school sometimes feel they shouldn’t pursue those pathways,” he told us. “There are signals that come with that, whether they are cultural or in the classroom or elsewhere, but they oftentimes convince some of the brightest young girls to go in a different direction. We think it is really important to nurture and encourage their strongest talents and make a pathway into these disciplines something that is visible; to show them role models, and to make it cool for girls as well as for boys.”