Collin County on Front Lines of STEM Education

An estimated 2.4 million jobs will go unfilled this year in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math

More businesses moving to Collin County means more competition for employees, especially in some in-demand fields.

An estimated 2.4 million jobs will go unfilled this year in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math -- or STEM.

In Collin County, much is being done to close the gap.

Allen ISD is building a $36 million STEAM center, emphasizing arts in addition to STEM.

Collin College has plans to build a technical campus next door.

Toyota announced Tuesday it will donate a total of $220,000 to 12 North Texas schools to develop STEM-based programs.

"That will be used to educate, inspire and prepare students for those next generation jobs," said Al Smith, Toyota's Chief Social Innovation Officer.

Steve Thotakat is a college student who said he hoped to land one of those jobs when he graduates in December.

At just 22 years old, Thotakat already has the resume of someone much older.

Now a senior at Texas A&M, he was recruited by Toyota as a sophomore and has worked as a full-time paid intern ever since.

"The world runs on STEM. You see science and math everywhere," Thotakat said. "As much as math tends to annoy people, it's something that you use in your daily activities."

Thotakat is majoring in industrial and systems engineering, developing some of the most sought-after skills in today's business world.

"Businesses like Toyota and the nation can't get enough of STEM talent," said Michael Medalla with Toyota USA Foundation.

Medalla said exposing people to STEM at a young age is key.

"If we don't help them with their identity at like the third grade for example that 'I'm good at math,' then we're never going to see them in the STEM funnel and we're never going to solve the problem," Medalla said.

Science, technology, engineering and math may seem intimidating at first.

But Thotakat is proof that a world of opportunity awaits those willing to push the boundaries of human knowledge.

"There are going to be an enormous amount of jobs, the question is 'Are they going to be here?' They’re only going to be here if in fact we have the work force and they're ready for it," said Dave Scullin. CEO of Communities Foundation of Texas.

North Texas schools receiving grants from the Toyota USA Foundation and Project Lead The Way include: Anna ISD, Anna High School, Anna Middle School, Harlow Elementary, Joe K. Bryant Elementary, Sue E. Rattan Elementary, Carroll ISD, Carroll High School, Denton ISD, Providence Elementary, Duncanville ISD, G. W. Kennemer Middle School, Frisco ISD, Vandeventer Middle School, Legacy Preparatory Charter Academy (Plano campus), Legacy Preparatory Charter Academy (Mesquite West campus), Lake Country Christian School (Fort Worth campus), and private and charter schools.

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