How can middle school students be inspired to pursue careers in STEM fields? It’s a question that has significant implications for education and workforce development.

In the Middle Grades Career Mentors project, EDC and partners investigated whether industry mentors and school counselors can motivate middle-school students to explore STEM careers. The project included a national pilot study that examined the impact of an intervention designed to raise young people’s awareness of rewarding technical careers.

Key Activities

Staff carried out the following activities:

  • Studied perceptions of STEM-focused Career Technical Education (CTE) from a nationwide sample of 800 middle-school–aged youth and 30 mentors from skill-based STEM industries
  • Worked with mentors to deepen understanding of mentors’ needs for support  
  • Tested the development of a CTE STEM Digital Resource Study Guide to support positive messaging around skill-based education and careers with mentors
  • Tested the use of the guide with mentors and school counselors to determine the intervention’s overall promise


Key findings included the following:

  • School counselors were able to use the guide’s tools to engage middle-grade students.
  • The tools improved students’ knowledge of and interest in STEM careers and pathways.
  • The tools improved communication and discussions about career options and pathways.
  • Mentors believed that mentoring has the potential to improve representation and recruitment of diverse populations in STEM fields.
  • For mentoring to succeed, mentors must commit time and find effective ways to engage students, even when mentoring organizations do not provide adequate support.

Learn More

National Science Foundation (ITEST)

WGBH Education Foundation, Global Strategy Group