By Hattie Bernstein
Whether you’re the shoe department manager in a large retail store or the president of a university, you’re more likely to succeed if you understand data analytics.
“You might be working in retail and learn that 20 pairs of a certain type of shoe were purchased, and you need to repopulate,” says Gwendolyn Britton, executive director of SNHU’s online STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs. “Or you might be the CEO at Southern New Hampshire University and want to know how effective the online branch of the institution is, so you pull out reports which represent in a visual way what you need to know.”
SNHU’s College of Online and Continuing Education bachelor’s and master’s programs in data analytics and other STEM courses are preparing students for today’s workplace, Britton says.
“STEM-related programs, including our data analytics programs, position students to get phenomenal jobs,” Britton says, ticking off a list of additional STEM programs that include IT, mathematics, environmental science and potentially some programs focusing on engineering disciplines.
Students who enroll in some of SNHU’s STEM programs get the chance to use “real-life” software, Britton continues, describing tools such as SAS, SQL and a number of Microsoft products that enhance learning. In several STEM programs, students have access to “virtual machines” through the use of software that can be accessed remotely, an advantage that saves the expense of purchasing a new computer and enables students to use the same technology and software they are likely to encounter in a real work environment.
STEM programs are not “for the faint of heart,” the executive director says. But that doesn’t mean COCE doesn’t welcome, and support, students who require “gateway,” or foundation, courses to get up to speed and build skills and self-confidence.
SNHU’s STEM programs reflect national predictions and trends. A report in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Labor, for example, anticipated that the largest number of new jobs would occur in the science and technology sectors. But the programs are also a response to what has become common knowledge: STEM employees play a key role in sustaining the growth of the economy, are among the highest wage earners, and have the greatest potential for job growth.
Meanwhile, applications of technology are cutting a wide swath across the disciplines, from education to industry, and gaining a momentum that is driving the national push to start STEM education in kindergarten and continue it through graduate school.
“We’d like to make it the fourth ‘R.’ Reading, writing, arithmetic and reality,” Britton says, asserting that mastery of technology, critical thinking and problem solving, like the other “Rs,” are basic competencies, and necessary for success in life.