Electronic sports (esports) are introducing students in high school and higher education to careers in gaming, software, and STEM-related jobs, and a Lehigh lawmaker looks to make esports accessible to every student across the state.
Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, was part of a roundtable discussion held Wednesday by the House Majority Policy Committee to learn more about the billion-dollar industry and its impact on the state’s economy and education. While esports teams exist throughout Pennsylvania at the high school level, the cost of these programs includes thousands of dollars in equipment and supervisors and poses challenges to economically disadvantaged school districts.
Schlossberg has authored legislation to create a sustainable funding stream to support extracurricular programs for students across the state.
“At first glance, esports might look like only video games, but one of the greatest aspects of extracurricular activities is to create an atmosphere where students build friendships and learn outside a classroom,” Schlossberg said in a statement. “Esports not only provides those opportunities, but it also exposes students to new digital technology and presents the possibility – like traditional sports – for students to earn college scholarships.”
Rep. Danilo Burgos, D-Philadelphia, said esports can provide the spark that encourages academic and emotional development in students.
“One of the most exciting aspects about esports, for me as a legislator and Latino, is its potential for an equitable solution to our strikingly low number of Black and Hispanic workers in STEM-related careers,” said Burgos, chairman of the Policy Subcommittee on Progressive Policies for Working People.
“Esports attract a diverse group of students, regardless of race or gender, and it has proven itself as a gateway into encouraging young people to pursue STEM education as well as STEM-related careers.”
Developing familiarity with digital technology at a young age is another aspect of esports. Studies show that Black youth make up the largest portion of the gaming teenage community, yet Black workers account for only 9% of the jobs in STEM-related fields.
“Esports offer students another chance to interact and learn alongside their peers,” said House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie. “It also has the potential to bring together a diverse group of students, and it encourages an interest and understanding of the science and digital technology being used at their fingertips. Esports also offer a tremendous economic opportunity for Pennsylvania.”
During the roundtable discussion, the House Majority Policy Committee heard from experts and business leaders on the esports industry and its potential positive effects on Pennsylvania’s economy and workforce.