From the development of vaccines to ubiquitous use of digital platforms, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the wide reach of science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields across public life, Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday.

Baker kicked off the 2021 Massachusetts STEM Summit by praising “truly remarkable” developments in the fields in recent years and noting that they played an integral role in the state and national response to the public health crisis.

He urged educational institutes and companies to “apply many of the lessons that have been learned” during the pandemic as they move forward.

“For us, one of the biggest lessons that’s been learned is how important it is for all of us to embrace this idea that STEM is not just part of the technology world or the life science world, it’s everywhere,” Baker said. “The practical application of the skillsets and the knowledge and the tools especially that come with STEM can be applied in multiple settings in both professional and personal endeavors.”

As the state recovers from the pandemic’s economic devastation and job losses, the Baker administration has been pushing for greater investment in vocational technical education to help meet employer demand.

About 40 percent of Massachusetts workers are in STEM-related careers, according to Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who cautioned that access to job opportunities is not evenly distributed to underrepresented populations and that women often do not have access to the highest-paying positions.

Polito urged educators to “think a little differently about how to introduce these STEM skills,” saying that greater use of hands-on, experiential learning could encourage more students to pursue careers in those fields.

(Copyright (c) 2021 State House News Service.

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