Three takeaways from Senator’s STEM event

One senator and a small group of education/business leaders gathered in Plain City last Friday. Around a table in Tolles Career Center, they built clear agreement: A strong, relevant education benefits everyone. Ohio Senator Portman convened the discussion at a new RAMTEC advanced manufacturing facility inside Tolles. There, he aimed to discuss strategies and ideas to expand opportunities in STEM-related career fields.

Before the discussion, the Senator met and talked with three students from the Ohio STEM Learning Network. Beth Littman (Metro Middle), Thomas Deever (Metro Middle), and Joseph Crump (Metro Early College High School), all detailed the knowledge they’ve gained through design challenges and hands-on learning, including the statewide Opioid Student Solution Showcase.

portman with students
STEM students talk with Senator Rob Portman

Roundtable discussion: Senator Portman seeks to support schools

Then, 21 education and business leaders from Ohio, joined the Senator to talk about what works and what’s next for education in Ohio. Among them were two Ohio STEM Learning Network principals: Dr. Andrea Zaph and Anthony Alston.

Throughout the panel, one theme emerged: From the families looking for a place to build a home, to businesses looking to invest and bring jobs, schools matter. Senator Portman echoed this idea in an interview with Columbus Business First: “You can have everything else work,” said Portman, “but if you don’t have the skilled workforce, none of it works.”

Advisory councils given local business a united voice to schools

Dr. Andrea Zaph, director of the STEM Academy at Collins Career Tech Center, emphasized the importance of convening local businesses into an industry council. Together, they can identify community needs, then work towards solutions that fit the local community. Solutions that start in schools.

Moreover, these councils allow businesses to speak with a cohesive voice about the skills their employees will need.

Internships helps students and employers

Effective schools strengthen a community, and can provide a strong incentive for families choosing where to live. To local businesses who rely on a skilled workforce, schools both attract and generate the candidates who can fill their positions.

Anthony Alston, Principal of Columbus’ Metro High School, spoke glowingly of their internship program. Because of the strong relationships that Metro maintains with businesses, all students get to experience the workplace before graduating. Students can get a taste of a job before committing to a career, and businesses get a chance to spot and foster future talent.

STEM and Career Tech are seen as major assets

The strongest message of the event came from Senator Portman’s participation. Political platforms change constantly. This event made clear STEM and career tech education are still seen as a critical path forward in education policy.

Dr. Aimee Kennedy from Battelle, a regular contributor to this blog, moderated the event. Read her post for the details about Senator Portman’s connection to career technical education and a link to a new report on STEM schools.

Inside Battelle blog: Congressional Caucus Recognizes STEM = Jobs

…(Senator) Portman co-chairs the bipartisan Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus. This group of 26 senators aims to expand high-quality, rigorous career and technical education to prepare students for college and career. We’ve spoken to the group before, when Battelle Research Leader Jeff Geppert spoke to a Congressional Staff Briefing on Feb. 10, 2017.

Now, Senator Portman is turning the focus to schools. He’s invited a series of Ohio organizations to speak about the intersection between career technical education (CTE) and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. It’s a smart connection. Both STEM and career technical schools share a focus on allowing students to learn through solving real-world problems.

To support this work, we’re proud to unveil a new report on Ohio’s 44 STEM schools. Throughout June, we worked to survey schools in the Ohio STEM Learning Network. As Senator Portman kick offs a new conversation on STEM in this state, we’re pleased to unveil data from those responses.

One key finding: Last year, students in Ohio STEM schools logged a jaw-dropping 81,000 internship hours…

About the Author
Dr. Aimee Kennedy is Senior Vice President for Education, STEM Learning and Philanthropy. She directs Battelle’s efforts to foster innovative schools that prepare students for tomorrow’s career and college environment. Founded on the conviction that rigorous, hands-on learning should be available to every child, these efforts include Metro Early College, the Ohio STEM Learning Network, the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network, and the national STEMx network.

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