BOISE - Jobs involved in STEM professions are growing - but there is a lack of qualified candidates to fill the gap.

One local Boise school is trying to fill the void by providing interactive opportunities for students to be eligible for those jobs in the future.

“I want be a scientist,” says second-grader Israel.

“I want to be a surgeon,” added Ciara, whose in fifth grade.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics was the focus Tuesday night.

Teachers at Garfield Elementary and partners from Boise State University hosted a hands-on STEM curriculum night for students and their families.

“This is critical we get them interested as early as possible,” says STEM coordinator and fifth-grade teacher at Garfield Elementary Sonia Glavaiz.

“The more we engage them at an early stage in STEM, the better they are to accomplish STEM curriculum throughout their education,” says Rich Osgurthorpe, dean of BSU’s College of Education.

The demand for STEM jobs in the workforce has increased by 17 percent, and the median wage is more than $35 an hour.

But there is a shortage of qualified candidates and a lack of minorities in the industry.

“The research is pretty clear about the STEM pipeline that we are lacking minority and low income in those jobs so our point here is to get kids thinking that they could be a scientist or engineer and get families thinking it is an opportunity too,” says Galaviz.

Galaviz says learning opportunities like this one is what will lead to more eligible employees in the future, of all races and backgrounds.

“For me it is about equity and access and opportunity to education. I want my kiddos, my classroom, to have the same opportunity as any other zip code in this country.”