By Elena Jacob

We often say that “children are our future,” but what are we doing as a society to ensure that our future is in capable hands?

Because the future of our economy is clearly technology-driven, many companies are making it a point to promote education in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This is especially true for girls and minority children, who are more likely to gravitate away from the hard sciences as they progress through school.

Many Fortune 500 companies, known for their foresight and wise investing, have chosen to invest in the future in a slightly different manner: Education.

1. Intel Schools of Distinction Awards

Eighteen schools, ranging from elementary to high school, are being awarded as Intel Schools of Distinction and honored for their dedication to promoting mathematics and science amongst students.

For schools awarded in the area of science, Intel looked for a strong science curriculum and programs that would allow students to do hands-on work with technology with the aim of preparing them for future jobs. These award-winning programs allow students to investigate, explore, and become familiar with technology while also learning about consumer trends and how to understand technology’s role in society – all valuable assets for future inventors and marketers of advanced technology.

Awards in mathematics were offered to schools that encourage children to engage in problem solving and real-life applications to various scenarios that students are likely to encounter in the real world, as well as dealing with science and technology. It also promotes working as a team to resolve issues, which encourages not only mathematical learning, but the building of communication skills while working on difficult projects.

2. The Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy

For one week, ten third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade teachers will enjoy an all-expense paid trip to the Houston Academy, where ExxonMobil, The National Science Teachers Association, Math Solutions, and PGA Golfer Phil Mickelson and his wife Amy have banded together to fund ten teachers from Fairbanks North Star Borough School District and ensure that they know the best ways to interest students and spark a life-long interest in math and science.

The Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy, founded in 2005, has sent over 2,600 to the Houston Academy for these specialized classes, sending 400 teachers every year, and reaching over 40,000 students since its launch. The program is still going strong and promises to touch the lives of thousands more children in the future, promoting a strong science foundation across the country.

3. General Electric and the Milwaukee Public Schools

The giant General Electric has donated $20.4 million – to be administered over the course of five years – to Milwaukee Public Schools toward the improvement of math and science programs offered to students, with a strong emphasis on student achievement in both fields.

As an innovator of the sciences, it seems only natural that General Electric would hold a special interest in education in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. General Electric founded their Developing Futures in Education program in 2005 and puts great importance on children being educated and exposed to technology and science form an early age.

4. Citigroup Smarter Schools and Smarter Classrooms Grants

Citigroup sponsors an economic empowerment program which provides funds to schools around the country and, in fact, around the world. They work to encourage the study and enjoyment of math and sciences, and encourage children in grades K-12 to go on to college by encouraging “smarter schools” and “smarter classrooms,” especially in low-income neighborhoods where children might not get as much exposure to math and science.

The program works on several levels, ensuring financial capabilities and asset building, enterprise development, college success (in the US), youth education and livelihoods (outside the US) and even neighborhood revitalization in the US. Citigroup bands with other more local corporations and organizations to achieve each of these goals in the communities they work with. In 2010, $67.9 million total had come from the foundation, and the contributions have reached in 89 countries outside of the United States.

5. Microsoft STEM: A Foundation for the Future

Microsoft, anticipating the tremendous swell of jobs that will be open in the next few years that fall into the “STEM” category (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), aims to prepare the next generation for participating in these up and coming positions that will no doubt dominate the near future.

Since 2003, their K-12 program, Partners in Learning has contributed almost $500 million to making technology and improved curricula available to millions of students around the country. This program has reached across 112 countries worldwide and has impacted over 177 million policymakers, teachers, and students all around the world.

They also host the Innovative Teachers program to improve the education offered to students by helping educators and education policymakers to develop effective lesson plans, share information on teaching methods, and come up with unique ideas for helping students feel more comfortable and prepared for technological advances that are being made every single day.

It is always refreshing to see powerful corporations and companies reaching out to the public to help improve the state of education, especially for underprivileged, diverse, or minority groups in the sciences. With so much attention being given to schools around the world and their STEM programs, one can only begin to imagine the kind of technological innovations that this generation of bright young minds will produce.