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Education & Workforce Development

Changes at Schools as a Result of STEM Needs

Panel Discussion Topic:
Positive changes that are taking place at area schools and colleges in reaction to the STEM needs.

Worcester Public Schools
Dennis Ferranti, District Director for Worcester Public Schools, outlined the programs within the Worcester Public Schools that impact STEM education. 

An all-women robotics team from Claremont Academy ultimately ended up in the semifinals of the robotics competition out of 44 teams, through hard work and dedication on the part of the students and staff.  With hard work and the right connections, you can do anything. 

Doherty High School – the MCAS pass rate is superior. The Engineering pipeline at Doherty was mentioned in Museum of Science Article outlining successful STEM programs across the state. 

Some of the partnerships that the Worcester Public Schools have include: 500 robotics kids and 75 teams are working with QCC; middle school students tour the Technical High School and they do mixers with QCC and utilize NSF grant etc. Worcester educational institutions are already involved in many collaboratives and partnerships.

EMC Corp has helped with career development programs within the school system.  They allowed eight students to tour their Franklin facility and showed them how math and science is applied at this workplace. How do kids get into manufacturing pathways?  EMC expects to have 40,000 openings in the next 5 years and they are training people in India to fill these.

Worcester Technical High School
Peter Crafts is Director of Technical/Vocational Education for the Worcester Technical High School, which is divided into four academies and 24 programs for 1,400 students. They have learning communities with lots of STEM partnerships. The strength of the school is its 24 advisory boards which include industry leaders who work with the staff to develop future programs. Technical students have to pass the same MCAS rigors, plus they have the technical education. Statewide they are doing well on MCAS. Allied Health is a fast growing area of interest. The Worcester Technical High School robotics teams has won national championships.

The school has partnerships with many area, national, and international companies. Schools need to provide the training to graduate technicians. Worcester Technical High School students can take advantage of several dual enrollment opportunities and certification programs. They also have lots of opportunity to earn college credit at QCC. QCC uses Worcester Technical High School to train students for their EMT Technician Program at night.

Quinsigamond Community College
Kathy Rentsch, Dean for Business and Technology at QCC, outlined the MassTEC program that is funded through a National Science Foundation grant. MassTEC focuses on the collaborations of area organizations such as area manufacturing companies, non-profit organizations, and other educational institutions. Through these collaborations, Mass TEC is working toward changing the negative opinion of manufacturing. They want to help fill the jobs that will be and are needed — technical and manufacturing careers. 

Ms. Rentsch outlined the regional collaboration and connection to community based organizations, even the underserved non-English speaking. They are working with existing partners like The Latino Ed Institute at Worcester State and Worcester Family Engagement Coalition which works with African, Asian, and Parent Planning communities.

Program partners are working on a strategy to reach out to parents and develop relationships with families, engage networks, and guide strategy to get results.

The media campaign research indicates that parents and career advisors want to hear about real jobs, wages, and careers for real employees. The program wants to provide opportunities where groups can interact with manufacturers and other employers.

Carol King is the director of this program. If you are interested in learning more about MassTEC and possibly working with MassTEC, please contact Carol at (508) 854-7526 or [email protected].

Sharon Johnson, Director of the Industrial Engineering Program and Associate Professor of Operations and Industrial Engineering in Dept. of Management at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), is collaborating on a National Science Foundation grant to teach college students across the county about Lean principles. 

 "As we teach STEM, we focus on scientific principles," stated Johnson. "How do we make it work? What are the principles? When you follow procedures where is the creative thinking and critical thinking?"

The Lean Process design lab at WPI focuses around the TimeWise simulation, a hands-on training module that gets students involved in problem solving and working together as teams. Spaghetti diagrams of the simulated factory situations are done and the outcome is left open ended to allow the students to redesign the layout and outcomes. This process gets them to ask questions and figure things out.

"It is great because it is hands on and allows them to explore design questions and not simply follow the rules." said Johnson.  "It gets the students thinking about the changing needs and about the various problems they may be facing."

Student proficiency should improve since they are gaining problem solving and data analysis skills, along with learning Lean principals. A test was done — Simulation versus Video. Both groups gained knowledge about manufacturing waste and Lean Principals, but the group who participated in hands-on simulation was able to propose more changes and had a wider variety of ideas and solutions…and innovative ideas.

The conclusion was that students and faculty are both more enthusiastic and that there have been improvements in learning since implementing the Lean Simulation training program.

Sharon says that the challenge is that industrial engineers tend to focus on designing things but they also need to look at the design process well. Johnson added, "We need to encourage middle and high school students to think about how to do things better. We need to encourage people that science is critical and creative endeavors encourage science."

Central Massachusetts Regional Employment Board
Jeff Turgeon, is Executive Director of the Central Massachusetts Regional Employment Board (CMREB) and the Mid Mass STEM Pathways Initiative.

The US DOL recently provided funding for a $2 M STEM grant over three years. The major focus of the grant is on education and training in universal skills. There will be a concentration on Biotech, Alternative Energy, Aerospace, and transferrable skills. Remedial education will be offered to bridge where the students are and what they need for college in Science, Math, and English.

STEM centers of excellence will be available at career centers with STEM career coaches and industry experts who understand programs and the industry. Locally, the center will be housed at the center for Workforce Development at Worcester Technical High School. Career coaches will be available to assist with career blueprint mapping, guidance, and goal setting. STEM mentors are people from the industry who are there to guide and encourage and recognize that students need support along the way.

Next steps, according to Turgeon, "We just got the award. Now we need to plan activities and a timeline. We need to make sure that this is done with our partners — not in a silo. We must utilize all their (partners) help and get the industries involved, through mentoring, etc."

Turgeon said that the CMREB will partner with all other organizations/schools etc. that are represented in the room and that the target will be disadvantaged youth, Veterans, and displaced workers.  If you are interested in participating in the grant, please contact Jeff at The Central Massachusetts Regional Employment Board (508) 799-1590 or [email protected].


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