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STEM Initiatives Take Root in Central Massachusetts

MassMEP hosted a STEM Symposium: 21st Century Learning System, moderated by Ted Coghlin, Chairman of the Skyline Technical Foundation, on December 3, 2008 at the College of the Holy Cross. Participants shared with the audience the different programs and initiatives in the area in regards to STEM- science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  Mr. Coghlin opened the program by challenging the group to "think creatively, take initiative, and work collaboratively and collegially together."

Nearly 100 educators, legislators, employers, manufacturers, and employment organizations were in attendance for the symposium that served to educate and inform attendees about the ways in which Central Massachusetts is taking the initiative to address the growing shortage of skilled workers entering the workforce (specifically in the STEM areas) and to encourage people to get involved in working together towards solutions.

Congressman James McGovern emphasized that manufacturing has been an important part of our past and present and will also be a vital part of our future. He asked, "What will we be making here in five, ten or fifteen years? What infrastructure do we need to create new jobs for the future, keep our business competitive and encourage cutting edge research and development?"

November 2008 saw the largest decline in manufacturing (36%) since 1982.  Yet, with one-third less people working, we still set productivity records.

Congressman McGovern commented, "The educational standards of the past fifty years are not going to carry us into the next century. It is critical that we plan appropriately for STEM. High School graduates will need at least an Associates’ Degree and on the job training. If anyone thinks that manufacturing will survive, let them talk to the 4,400 people who lost jobs in manufacturing this year. There is potential for Massachusetts to lose 100,000 jobs in the next ten years if we don’t change the way we look at things. We must develop and sustain the STEM collaborative."

The Central Massachusetts Regional Employment Board (CMREB) has received a $2 M grant to provide training for science-based education. The funding will help equip our workforce, map career paths, and fill the need for a skilled workforce.

Congressman McGovern stated that he was convinced that Massachusetts is poised to receive their fair share. He has high hopes and expectations that not only will this keep our state alive but that we will make advances. After all, Massachusetts is the home of the Industrial Revolution.

During the event, several area organizations provided an overview of the program and services they provide to help bring manufacturing into the next century. The following is a synopsis of each presentation and complete presentations are available at www.massmep.org.

In bringing the event to a close, Ted Coghlin asked the WIB to link with other partners to share collaborative synergy. He reiterated that Workforce Central must understand the needs and link education with manufacturing. He implored educators to collaborate and utilize resources.

"Everyone will be challenged and must use resources intelligently," stated Coghlin. "Candidates are needed, ideas are needed, and volunteers are needed. Worcester Technical High School will soon have their 100th anniversary. In fact, the trade school movement started here! WPI has been here since 1860. There is a common thread between Worcester’s learning institutions and manufacturers like Norton, Morgan, Riley, Wyman Gordon, and Hyde. The influence of area colleges was significant to manufacturing and to civic, community, and cultural growth. The museums, Mechanic’s Hall – these would not have existed if not for the collegiate influence to help manufacturing grow in the area. Today part of our responsibility is to go forth motivated to use our talents to keep this area – the heart of the Commonwealth, a wonderful place to live, work, and learn!"

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