The Importance of the Arts in Producing a Competitive Workforce
The case for adding “A” for the arts to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), thereby making it STEAM, is articulated in Ready to Innovate, a report that highlights the results of a study conducted by the Conference Board (a global business membership and research association) and Americans for the Arts in association with the American Association of School Administrators. The study, which was based on a survey of business executives and school superintendents, concluded that “building an innovative workforce will depend on developing employees’ creative abilities.” That means that although STEM is of critical importance, the arts are equally important in preparing an innovative, competitive workforce with the strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills increasingly required by employers.
Adding “A” to Stem Means Arts in the Required Curriculum
State and local elected officials should support the resources necessary for comprehensive classroom instruction and require that students have credits in the arts in order to graduate from high school. Progressive communities provide arts education experiences in two complementary ways:
(1) incorporating sequential arts instruction in K-12 education and requiring credits in the arts to graduate from high school, and
(2) delivering arts experiences for children through in-school residencies of artists and field trips to community cultural activities. Each of those strategies provides exposure to the arts, an appreciation of various artistic disciplines, and training in the hands-on making of art. Experience with artists and community museums, theaters, and performances can be achieved through partnerships among local cultural arts councils, school boards, and children’s councils.
The region already has successful models to build on. For ex- ample, the St. Lucie County Arts and Cultural Alliance Inspiration x Imagination = Education Program supports arts education through participation in and out of the classroom, and the Palm Beach County Cultural Arts Council’s Building Learning Communities through Arts and Culture Program focuses on building capacity in the schools. In Indian River County, the Vero Beach Museum of Art offers a professional development for K-12 educators. At the regional scale, the South Florida Cultural Consortium is developing an initiative to train artists throughout Southeast Florida so that they have the recognized credentials to teach in any of the region’s counties. That will help share those resources across county lines and enable teaching artists to earn an adequate living through employment opportunities through- out the region. One product of the consortium’s work is the development of a directory of artists who can work in the schools, similar to the one sponsored by the Broward County Cultural Arts Division and the Broward County School Board .