Teaching young women the importance of STEM skills can open up a world of career opportunities. Currently, females make up just about 25 percent of the total STEM (science, technology, and math) workforce.

With only 18 percent of females as computer science undergrads, the Pacific International Space System for Exploration Systems (PISCES) is striving to make a change. It starts with a four-day workshop for Hawaii Island’s girls in high school.

For the third year, PISCES held its “STEM Aerospace Research Scholars (STARS) Program.” The included eight talented high school females and ended last Friday The young women learned about science in Hawaii and elsewhere.

The workshop started with a geode activity and learning about rocks on Earth. The participants also learned about space science, drove a robotic rover, visited the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope headquarters in Waimea, and more. Topics covered included engineering, astrobiology, and others.

West Hawaii Today reports the workshop started in 2014 to help direct Hawaii students into the NASA WISH program, a STEM program for high school women. A lack of funding led to the indefinite cancellation of the WISH program. PISCES created its own program to help fill this gap.

Entry into the STARS program is competitive. The candidates must maintain a certain grade point average and submit an essay explaining their interest in participating in the program. The teens who participated in the program this year all have future plans to pursue STEM careers.

The STARS program provides what education experts have found is most effective for teaching STEM skills. An interdisciplinary approach with hands-on learning based on problem-solving inspires young women to learn more. Younger girls can learn stem skills through fun programs such as LEGO robotics clubs and competitions.

Over the next decade, millions of jobs will become available in fields that are currently male-dominated. Opportunities at leading companies will be available in manufacturing and transportation, IT, construction and building development, various types of engineering, genetic research and chemical composition, aerospace, laboratory automation and robotics, and many others.

Research reveals women need more female role models in STEM jobs and may also face stereotypes in occupations that are often held by men.

Teaching girls STEM skills from a young age can help them to want to pursue careers in well-paid occupations previously dominated by males. Educated women can help meet growing demand in the workforce to fill STEM positions with qualified candidates.