The President’s Pen is a weekly blog written by Jonathan Smith, New Vision’s President and CEO about local economic development projects and initiatives. It also covers economic trends, workforce issues, business climate policies, and manufacturing news.
Our association is pleased to announce that we will be working with Educational Service District (ESD) 105 to advance STEM business education partnerships. Over the last 18 months our organization has been part of a broad based planning effort to advance STEM (Science, Technology, Education, Math) education in Central Washington. The ESD put the finishing touches on this plan recently and reached out to us to start implementing priority partnerships with business.
Our role will be to work with students and staff at the Yakima Valley Technical Skills Center to produce "virtual industry tours". These short video clips will profile:
The team will produce two video tours by the end of the year and then plow forward to produce six more episodes by June 2014. These videos will stream off of ESD 105's website and they will also distribute the videos to their school partners throughout Central Washington. Producing video snapshots of local industry addresses a couple capacity challenges. Most employers are limited in terms of the number of tours they can provide even if it is a great cause. Additionally many students, teachers and counselors are not involved when their schools take company tours or learn about career opportunities and related skill requirements. Short yet interesting video clips are a way of getting the STEM message out to key stakeholders within the region.
In addition to producing the video tours our association will also be reaching out to businesses and asking them if they can feed relevant learning opportunities into k-12 classes. Our goal is to seed school projects and lesson plans that advance STEM education.
Building effective bridges between educators and employers is more important than ever in the Yakima Valley. Many companies are rebounding from the recession and adding to local payrolls. In this environment many businesses are already citing challenges in terms of finding capable employees. This is not a new issue for the region - we have been struggling with skill gaps and work ethic issues for over 20 years. At the same time though the stakes are higher than ever before. Skill requirements for decent paying jobs are increasing. Many skilled workers will also be retiring over the next 10-15 years.
Local businesses will face challenges and some could languish altogether if we do not raise educational attainment and develop a highly skilled workforce. The stakes are high but the opportunity to raise our standard of living through education is tangible. We are excited about our new partnership with ESD 105 and will keep you updated as this new initiative unfolds.