SC lieutenant governor promotes STEM education as key to attracting tech industry

SC lieutenant governor promotes STEM education as key to attracting tech industry

by Michael Owen – originally published by WPDE on September 14, 2023

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WPDE) — South Carolina is pushing to be an attractive destination for tech companies, and our state’s Lieutenant Governor said the key is being a national leader in stem education.

Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette visited the Grand Strand today to speak at a tech conference.

She was the host speaker Wednesday at the SC Decoded Conference in North Myrtle Beach.

She said that having these types of jobs and education resources available is crucial to our area if we want the younger generations to stay here.

The Lieutenant Governor also said that while Myrtle Beach has always been routed in hospitality, it’s now expanding into a new industry.

“With DC Blox announcing they’re coming to Myrtle Beach, basically bringing transatlantic fiber in here and being a data center. So, what that’s saying is this is the area you want to be in if you’re going to be in the cyber computer science arena,” said Lt. Gov. Evette.

In order to keep attracting those companies and providing future generations with jobs, Evette said education is the key.

“We have an opportunity. There are great choices in this field, and we as a state, want our kids to stay here. We’re looking out into the future that we are educating our kids for the jobs of the future,” she said.

In 2018, just 43% of all high schools in South Carolina offered computer science courses. Now 93% offer them, which is number two in the country.

She said we need to introduce kids to stem fields at earlier ages.

“It’s never too young. You know I first learned here in Myrtle Beach about STEM and STEAM doing robotics. They start them out very young with Legos getting the dexterity to put things together to create and build and they continue to ramp that up each year,” said Lt. Gov. Evette.

The leader of FIRST Robotics competitions in South Carolina tells me they have kids as young as four years old participating.

“When you go look at kids, they’re using technology. They’re using their iPads. They’re using all these resources and sometimes it’s just to have an environment they can relax in. What we try to do is flip that brain the other way and say how can we actually show the kids how to build that app,” said Chris Cortez, FIRST South Carolina. He added, “They’re using encoding skills that we teach them to build those apps. So they can actually understand at a fundamental level of actually how this comes to be.”

Cortez said FIRST wants to give all kids the opportunity to be introduced to STEM fields and have mentors to be able to help guide them in the industry.

“We also want to empower the students that are in our programs, and future members of our programs to stay in the state of South Carolina. There are great opportunities here and we are going to help build that economic boom of those STEM leaders with our programs,” said Cortez. He went on to add, “When they say there’s great jobs here, we want to be a part of that and say we’re helping build those opportunities for those kids to be successful for those businesses. So those businesses can come here and say ‘You know what there is a great workforce here.’ ”

The Lieutenant Governor agrees that equipping students with the right resources will be crucial to continued expansions into STEM careers for South Carolina. It’s not just kids she wants to be educated either. She also wants to see more veterans use scholarship opportunities to live in South Carolina and enter the STEM field. 

“We know that cyber is the future, technology is the future, and we want to make sure that we equip all South Carolina students with the knowledge that they need for these amazing careers,” said Lt. Gov. Evette.

Many tech companies were on hand for the meet and greet style event with speakers on topics like A.I. and cyber security.