STEM Education Essential for Solving the Talent Shortage
According to research by ManpowerGroup, for the fourth year in a row, skilled trades rank as the most difficult jobs to fill in the United States. The root cause is the lack of skilled engineers, machinists, electricians, mechanics, and technicians available in today’s workforce.
These professions requiring skilled talent are emerging at a faster rate than they can be filled. For those pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), this presents a world of opportunity. Constantly changing technologies demand new skills, resulting in the creation of new jobs. Meanwhile, a majority of skilled workers in the U.S. are either approaching or exceeding age 50, indicating an even greater demand for these jobs in the future.
What is the solution? Effective STEM education!
As shown in the Manpower report, STEM education provides the best opportunity to close the skills gap. Whether through 4-year degrees, two-year career programs or shorter certificate programs, STEM education equips students with the skills that lead to high-demand, high-salaried, meaningful jobs. Students who pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are creating better potential and more security for their futures, as well as for the futures of their respective economies.
March 14th kicked off this year’s annual SkillsUSA NH State Skills and Leadership conference, wherein students competed for the title of best-in-state across 30 events related to technical, skilled, and service occupations. We were proud to host the Automated Manufacturing Technology (AMT) competition at our Manchester, NH, headquarters on March 21st. It is always rewarding to see firsthand students fully engaged in their education, involved in a program that truly makes a difference in their lives. Andrew Clark, Alec Lemelin and Jacob Paradis from the Richard W. Creteau Regional Technology Center at Spaulding High School in Rochester, NH, won gold at this years event. On to on Kansas City for the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference!
The Skills competitions convey the value of collaboration and teamwork in a tangible way. Communicating, defining roles, managing time – all these are part of the process in competitive events, and students realize the value in a more concrete manner that through conceptual instruction.
To see these students succeeding, thriving, and setting goals in such an educational environment demonstrates how effective competitive events are in helping students reach their potential by delivering tangible job-ready, college-ready skills.
In the process, we also help to bridge the skills gap in the workforce even in some of the hardest to fill positions! More on that phenomenon in a later post. For now, we simply tip our hat to the great SkillsUSA students competing over the past month, and offer our thanks for the reminder of why all of us at Intelitek are so proud to do what we do in support of education!
Adirondack Community College, part of State University of New York (SUNY), and WSWHE BOCES (Washington-Saratoga- Warren-Hamilton-Essex Board of Cooperative Educational Services) have teamed up in an innovative program to prepare students to be career- and college-ready.
A robust college experience for high school students
The Early College High School Program, part of a public-private partnership, takes a new approach to dual-enrollment. Instead of offering college-credit programs at their own high school campus, students are bussed to SUNY Adirondack’s college campus for a half-day of courses co-taught by SUNY professors and the WSWHE BOCES high school CTE instructor.
This first-in-the-nation strategy delivers a robust college experience for high school students, with the goal of bolstering their skills and credentials upon graduation. Available starting in the junior year for students who pass the placement exam, participants can earn 7 credits each semester, up to 24 college credits by the end of the 2-year program.
Multiple pathways to success
The program provides multiple pathways to success for students. For students seeking direct-to-workforce employment, four industry certifications are available. The dual-enrollment credits also seamlessly integrate into Adirondack’s Electrical Technology Associates degree program. Credits also transfer to any 2- or 4-year degree program.
Project-based learning prepares students for industry certification
Project-based learning is the backbone of this program, featuring hands-on activities with industrial-level manufacturing equipment. Intelitek, a global developer of career and technology training systems specializing in advanced manufacturing, provided curriculum for the program. Students can access online curriculum through an e-learning platform that guides them through projects using the classroom hardware in topics like CAD, precision measurement, mechanical systems and electrical systems.
“Intelitek courses provide excellent exam prep for the MSSC assessments”
The relevant curriculum helps connect students to relevant skills needed in the workforce, thus helping to meet the program’s goal to connect the skills taught in the classroom with the needs of employers. To validate these skills, students also have the opportunity to earn industry certifications throughout the course. At the end of semester 1, students can take the MSSC Safety assessment; semester 2 leads to the Quality Practices & Measurement certification; Semester 3 -Manufacturing Processes & Production; and semester 4 prepares students for the Maintenance Awareness assessment.
“The Intelitek courses provide excellent exam prep for the MSSC assessments.” says Gage Simpson, Career and Technology Instructor for the WSHWE BOCES. In order to teach the courses, Simpson needed to pass the same assessments.
SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher praised Early College High School’s “innovative program that connects high school, college and the world of work, all aligned through a single challenging curriculum that keeps students focused, engaged and excited.” Such a collaboration between industry and education can serve as a model for success.
Earlier in March we attended GESS (Gulf Educational Supplies and Solutions) show at the Dubai World Trade Centre. We featured our modular Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS) for its ability to meet a wide range of academic requirements and budgets. At the show, we displayed our FMS system with SCORBOT-ER9 Pro educational robot and CNC BenchMill 6000 Milling Center machine. The system came with a table, parts feeder and Open FMS software that provide a comprehensive solution for the study and practice of FMS methods and operations.
The successful installation drew many people to the booth. This was the first time our FMS system was exhibited outside the USA and it was the only FMS in the show. For many it was the first time they saw the BenchMill 6000 in action.
From the intense interest we received in this system, we have a renewed appreciation for the global demand for training solutions that can deliver manufacturing skills!
ACTE has deemed Thursday, February 27 CTE Social Media Advocacy Day in an effort to increase understanding and awareness about the importance of career and technical education.
This year, the theme of CTE Month is “Celebrate CTE Superheroes,” and it’s centered on students who are passionate about career and technical education. We especially recognize those who have made local and national strides in CTE through tireless effort, hard work, and creativity. Across the United States, CTE programs are showcasing their accomplishments and exhibiting their dedication to helping students become better prepared and more equipped to enter the workforce. In the coming months Intelitek will join in showcasing the creative efforts of CTE students – stay tuned for more info!
CTE Month takes place just before the 2014 ACTE National Policy Seminar on March 3, where attendees will take part in discussions about how to best shape the future of CTE, both in the short term and in the long run.
In his State of the Union Address on Jan. 28, President Obama declared career and workforce training a priority for the upcoming year, and we are inspired to make this a reality. We are thoroughly excited about the goals we’re working to accomplish this year in terms of career and technical education advancements. So whether you’re a CTE student, leader, educator, or simply someone who is passionate about closing the skills gap and seeing a better-educated America, speak up today on CTE Social Media Advocacy Day.
On January 30, senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Tim Kaine of Virginia announced the formation and launching of the bipartisan U.S. Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, which will center on the advancement of CTE and will work to ensure that all students are better prepared for college and, subsequently, for the workforce through access to rigorous and superior career and technical education.
In a letter to their Senate colleagues asking for their support and membership, Kaine and Portman discuss how CTE is a “proven solution for creating jobs, retraining workers with the skills they need to fill open position in the job market, and ensuring students of all ages and walks of life are career and college ready.” The letter continues, “It is critical that students have the opportunity to acquire the education and skills that will help them find employment and live productive, successful lives.”
Though a CTE Caucus currently exists in the House of Representatives, the Senate counterpart will enhance advocacy for this important cause and will provide the opportunity for Senators to vote on CTE matters as a united voice, one that is genuinely concerned with the overall welfare and expansion of career and technical education.
The Senate CTE Caucus will also make efforts to ensure that unemployed or displaced workers have better access to training which will equip them with skills deemed highly relevant to the job market. More and more Americans are finding that they lack the skills required by high-paying jobs or that the skills that they do possess are increasingly less germane to the jobs available where they live. In order to get higher numbers of Americans back into the workforce, it is essential that these individuals have access to vocational and educational resources; this way, they can earn the certifications and credentials that they need.
With stronger and more widely available CTE programs, all students—whether secondary, postsecondary, or adult—will easily be able to receive training in areas of personal interest and will consequently be more passionate about the material that they are learning. Greater numbers of impassioned students leads to an influx of qualified job candidates and increasing numbers of filled positions. The Senate CTE Caucus is an exciting step in the right direction to helping Americans gain employment with ease, thanks to the attainment of more desirable skills.
Philip Przybyszewski, Project Coordinator for the Advanced Manufacturing Program at Manchester Community College talks about the advantages of Intelitek curriculum.
With funding from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grant, the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH) began creating training programs across NH to develop the workforce of the future for advanced manufacturing.
Philip Przybyszewski, Project Coordinator for the Advanced Manufacturing Program at Manchester Community College (MCC), led the effort to build a program that would deliver the relevant skills for New Hampshire’s workforce. That included suitable equipment and curriculum that could serve entrants from various backgrounds. To meet the demands of the grant, the program would also have to be accessible for trainees with a wide range of schedules.
The resulting certificate and associate degree programs implement a hybrid learning approach featuring Intelitek solutions. In the video below, Phil talks about the advantages hybrid learning brings to the unique challenges of the post-secondary classroom.
One specific element the study highlights is Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs). As the report mentions:
“CTSOs, such as SkillsUSA provide skills-based competitions for students…based largely on students’ abilities to work individually or in teams to solve problems and present projects to judges from industry and education. …They clearly support student mastery of the “STEM competencies,” as many problem- or project-based learning experiences do.”
In this way, CTSOs deliver some of the most important elements for successful STEM programs: engaging industry to guide the delivery of relevant skills and offering “true contextualized learning within the context of a specific industry or career pathway”.
As Julie Kantor of STEMConnector wrote recently in the Huffington Post: “The conference is filled also with corporations smart enough to get in the door early and meet the best and brightest of our country. These kids all come out of high school with a TANGIBLE SKILL.”
One example of success came in the 2013 SkillsUSA competition. Girls from Spaulding High School in Rochester, New Hampshire clinched gold at the National SkillsUSA Competition in Missouri, earning the title as the first all-female team to win the competition. The trio competed against high school students from all 49 other U.S. states to take home the medal in Automated Manufacturing Technology contest, which evaluates teams for employment in the integrated manufacturing technology fields of computer aided drafting/design (CAD), computer aided manufacturing (CAM), and computer numerical controlled machining (CNC). Team member Jackie McNally constructed the parts’ geometry in CAD, while Naomie Clark, the CAM operator, generated the tool paths and Ali Trueworthy was responsible for CNC set-up and machining.
The Rochester girls spent two years in STEM classes at the Richard W. Creteau Regional Technology Center under teacher and adviser David Foote. This academic program combined with the experiences in SkillsUSA helped the succeed in this year’s national competition. They insist that the key to their success is not just the technical skills, but collaboration — working together rather than as separate contributors.
All three girls are now pursuing engineering degrees – an excellent outcome that any STEM program would be proud to achieve!
This is just one example among the 5,900 students who competed in the 2013 SkillsUSA nationals! All of these participants no doubt obtained an enhanced educational experience.
Many new STEM initiatives are gaining momentum and funding, but lacking guidance at the implementation stage. Proven and successful CTSOs like SKillsUSA provide an excellent model to follow. Participation bolsters interest in STEM, while delivering relevant technical skills as well as leadership and problem-solving skills so valuable in any career field!