Aerospace group Lockheed Martin issued a $2-million, multi-year grant to support the expansion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs for Orange County (Florida) Public Schools. The OEM noted in its announcement that its purpose is “to address the nation’s critical need for future engineers, computer scientists, and math- and science-trained professionals,” and it noted the funding is intended to expand “college and career-focused” curricula.

The STEM acronym is used frequently in discussions of education policy and curriculum choices in regard to a perceived need for U.S. elementary, middle, and high schools (K-12) to improve students’ preparation for college and careers in high-technology fields.

According to Lockheed, expanding student access to STEM education is an issue of “national prosperity and security.” It cited U.S. Dept. of Commerce reports that by 2018 STEM-related jobs in the U.S. will grow by 17% (nearly double the rate of jobs in non-STEM fields), and that the 1.2 million available jobs may be unfilled by 2018 due to a lack of qualified, trained workers.

The specific STEM curricula for the Florida district will be provided by Project Lead The Way, a nonprofit organization that supplies STEM course curricula that are activity-, project-, and problem-based for K-12 education. Its programs are supplied to schools and teachers who instruct 6,500 elementary, middle, and secondary-school students in all 50 states and D.C.

Lockheed has committed $6 million/year to expand PLTW programs in U.S. urban school districts. Schools may use the grants to pay for program participation fees, teacher professional development training, and classroom equipment and supplies.

Also, Lockheed Martin engineers will volunteer in classrooms at participating schools, as role models and mentors to students.

“This partnership gives our talented workforce the opportunity to interact one-on-one with students and share the excitement of STEM,” according to Rick Edwards, exec. v.p. at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

Lockheed’s grant will provide 40 OCPS schools with PLTW programs during the 2015-16 school year.

“Orange County Public Schools has enjoyed a tremendous partnership with Lockheed Martin and Project Lead The Way for several years,” said Dr. Barbara Jenkins, superintendent. “We are extremely grateful for this generous grant which will significantly improve the STEM experience for all of our students.”

Lockheed Martin has committed $6 million nationally to expand PLTW programs in select U.S. urban school districts. Schools that receive grant funding can use the funds to pay for PLTW program participation fees, teacher professional development training, and classroom equipment and supplies. In addition, Lockheed Martin engineers will volunteer in classrooms at the participating schools, building relationships with students as role models and mentors.