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It’s no secret that people who earn degrees from four-year universities make more money over their lifetimes, avail themselves of a wider array of career opportunities, and have more job security and satisfaction than those who do not have degrees.

In the ever-changing global economy, earning a college degree is becoming more important than ever.

At Wayne State University, we recognize that getting students and their families to think ahead about their education is vitally important.

It’s one reason why we recently hosted the second annual STEM Day event on our campus. We provided an opportunity for students from around the state to interact with staff and faculty and get a taste of the college experience.

More than 2,100 middle school students and 250 teachers and chaperones from 26 schools in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties had the chance to participate in interactive sessions in STEM areas, which included fire tornadoes, walking on water, Play-Doh genetics, liquid nitrogen ice cream, crash test dummies, robots and many others.

Seventy-six hands-on sessions from our College of Education, College of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Nursing, Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, School of Medicine and C2 Pipeline were presented.

I was honored to give a presentation on the intricacies of the human eye before an audience of very engaged and inquisitive middle-schoolers.

It’s becoming apparent that teachers, students and their parents are sitting up and noticing the potential that STEM provides. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook for STEM employment is projected to grow by about 13 percent by 2022.

Moreover, according to research from the Pew Center, STEM workers enjoy a pay advantage compared with non-STEM workers with similar levels of education, and STEM training in college is associated with higher earnings, whether working in a STEM occupation or not.

We also have ample proof that our talent pool in Michigan has become dangerously depleted in the past decade or so. We may not agree on why this is, but most everyone agrees that in order to attract business and entrepreneurship, we need to offer a statewide talent pool that is second to none. STEM addresses this issue directly.

To be successful, students need to master skills that lead to lifelong learning in areas that will be in demand.

STEM-related industries fit that description perfectly, and that’s why Wayne State has reached out to young students early in their education: to expose them to career paths that will lead to greater opportunities, and make a positive impact on the state’s economic health for generations to come.

I’m confident that we will have alums who will come back years from now and say it was that a-ha moment during a chemistry experiment or biology lecture on STEM Day that inspired them to go to college and create a career path to lifetime success.

M. Roy Wilson is president of Wayne State University.

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