By Brindley Byrd, founding executive director of the Michigan Energy Efficiency Contractors Association (MEECA)
Over the past few months T3: Teach. Talent. Thrive., the capital area’s career and education advisory council, has shared 10 blog posts written by business and community leaders from across the region in a series we call #GainingSTEAM.
These thought leaders help make the business connection between 21st century, high-demand skills and the science, technology, engineering, arts and math disciplines. Each post illustrates T3’s vision of the capital area as the exemplary STEAM region in America.
The connection between core knowledge-based job skills and global competitiveness was illustrated in a 2014 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report titled STEM 101: Intro to Tomorrow’s Jobs. In describing STEM workers, the authors said they use, “their knowledge of science, technology, engineering or math to try to understand how the world works and to solve problems.” Many of the jobs identified as STEM-based are some of our region’s fastest growing occupations. And, they pay really, really well, with many offering a six-figure median wages.
T3 focuses on four areas that rely on a labor force that has mastered STEAM subjects: health care, information technology, advanced manufacturing and emerging technologies.
So, how does the ‘A’ in STEAM fit in?
“Art is about discovering and creating ingenious ways of problem solving,” Deborah E. Mikula, executive director of the Arts Council of Greater Lansing wrote in her#GainingSTEAM installment. She further points to the fact adding the “A” isn’t about creating more artists – it’s about the integration of the creative process when students study STEM subjects. Tapping into that creativity will help more students better engage throughout their entire education experience.
In “Cultivating Creative Capacity,” Joni Starr looks deeper into the creative process taking us back to the days of being a kid making a couch fort. Starr is the administrative coordinator for arts and integrated learning for the Ingham Intermediate School District. She described the process of how our creativity falls victim to comparison. Early on, we are not concerned about comparing ourselves to other people or even to other things we have done before – forts we have built previously, for example. When we get older, much of our creative thoughts begin with comparison. When approaching a project or initiative, how often have you heard people ask, “What have other people done?”
As the principal in charge of audits for Maner Costerisan, mid-Michigan’s largest public accounting and business services companies, CPA and shareholder Dennis D. Theis also recognized the importance of “Emphasizing the ‘A’ in STEAM.” He wrote that, even in accounting, “My experiences with art, communications, history, humanities and other art-related skills certainly impact my level of creativity and flexibility to address a broad range of issues.”
How are we doing at #GainingSTEAM in the region?
In “The Economic Impact of STEAM,” Victoria Meadows, marketing, communications and talent director for Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) shared some good news data about how well our region is doing. We are leading all other Michigan Prosperity Regions in technical education degree attainment and educational attainment overall. Talent development plus STEAM education equals regional economic development, meaning Michigan is no longer the comeback state, but a leader in economic development.
Edythe Hatter-Williams, CEO of Capital Area Michigan Works!, shared exciting news of the area’s first collaborative reverse job fair held this past spring and how this is doing STEAM education right. Through a coordinated effort among the Clinton County Regional Education Services Agency, Eaton County Regional Education Services Agency and Ingham Intermediate School District, 53 graduating high school seniors were the featured guests and connected with more than 20 regional manufacturing and information technology employers recruiting their future talent. A “reverse job fair” meant that employers sat one-on-one at the table of the each student, rather than students visiting the booth of employers. These young candidates set up their education portfolios and used their employment readiness skills developed during their high school years. It was a great turnout for this first-time event.
Michael Flowers, executive director of human resources for the Lansing Board of Water & Light reminded us how BWL is teaming up with the education sector to build their STEAM labor force in his blog post “STEAM is More than a Utility.” Now in its 10th year, the 1st S.T.E.P. – School to Training and Employment Program – pairs high school seniors in their service territory with a BWL employee mentor. 1st S.T.E.P. provides hands-on learning in jobs including information technology, engineering and utility design. BWL has hired more than 20 people into full-time positions with BWL through 1st S.T.E.P.
In our own version of “How It’s Made,” Amy Busch, manager of human resources at Bekum America Corporation, shows how STEAM-skilled trades workers manufacture a vast array of containers we touch every day. Bekum also builds its own labor force, recruiting area high school students into the registered apprenticeship program, making that direct connection from STEAM education to employment.
The more our region’s businesses replicate STEAM education to direct employment models, the better we’ll be at creating our own STEAM talent development system.
What about getting more women into STEAM?
Two of our #GainingSTEAM posts focused on the importance of attracting women to STEAM education and skilled trades.
In “Women in STEAM,” Michelle Massey, vice president of business operations at Dewpoint, Inc., shared a four-point strategy of exposure, mentorship, advocacy and empowerment to create a STEAM spark in young women and guide them to STEAM careers. She highlights the value of parental support in encouraging girls to pursue STEAM careers. This advocacy is critically important for young women to choose careers in the skilled or professional trades where they still are significantly outnumbered by male coworkers.
In “Skilled Trades are for Everyone,” Cindie Alwood, executive director of the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing, emphasizes the fact that there is employment security and pay equity for women who leverage their STEAM knowledge in skilled trades occupations. She said certain skilled trades are seeking women employees specifically because of their work ethic, attention to detail, pride in their work and ability to be both a team player and work independently when necessary.
How to keep #GainingSTEAM for regional prosperity?
As T3 continues to be a network of connected assets supporting education and talent development, we will continue to identify STEAM initiatives that create a 21st Century labor force. We will connect these dots with the many assets that further a STEAM career seeker’s education and training, helping them learn they can have an exciting STEAM career employed right here in Lansing’s tri-county region.
This stays true to our mission that greater Lansing is a community committed to lifelong learning, led by businesses and community stakeholders, to ensure regional prosperity in the ever-changing new economy.
Visit our website for further installments of #GainingSTEAM and see how T3 is buiding the capital area’s STEAM talent development system.
Full STEAM ahead!