Senior U.S. Ed Official Visits North Carolina’s Eastern Region

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North Carolina’s Eastern Region hosted the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education, Brenda Dann-Messier Wednesday, June 6th. Dann-Messier visited STEM Centers in Lenoir and Craven Counties and participated in roundtable discussions with students, teachers and public and private partners in both locations.

Picture1(1).jpgNorth Carolina’s Eastern Region hosted the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education, Brenda Dann-Messier Wednesday, June 6th. Dann-Messier visited STEM Centers in Lenoir and Craven Counties and participated in roundtable discussions with students, teachers and public and private partners in both locations.

When discussing the purpose of her visit, the Assistant Secretary said, “The answers are not in Washington. The answers are on the ground with those who are doing it every day.” But even at the highest levels of government, leaders are recognizing the need to focus on Career and Technical Education (CTE). In his budget for 2013 President Obama has proposed 8 billion dollars for a college to career fund which would in part be used to develop partnerships between community colleges and business. An additional 1 billion dollars has been proposed to support career academics.

“We have to do a better job at preparing our students for STEM careers. We want to make sure business and industry is involved in this process,” said Dann-Messier. That is exactly what has taken place through STEM East the past few years. STEM East is partnering with private industries, government and community organizations, colleges and universities to promote the development of educational pathways and alignment of career opportunities. 

Local business owner Tom Vermillion has played an integral role in the development of STEM East. “For the first time as an employer I was engaged in the education process,” said Vermillion.

Participating in the roundtable was Rick Davis of Spirit AeroSystems which recently opened a new facility at the GTP, near Kinston, has been a key industry ally. “When we decided to locate here, we knew that a skilled workforce would be a challenge in some areas,” said Davis. “Anyone who thought that the workforce issue couldn’t be overcome had not met the people,” Davis added.IMG_0149.JPG

Robust partnerships have been the key for STEM East. National attention and accolades are as routine as the demand for a sound workforce pipeline.   Part of the success has been bringing employers to the table,” said John Chaffee, President & CEO of North Carolina’s Eastern Region. Chaffee went on to add that without funding from Golden LEAF and partners, the success of a regional approach would not be possible.

“We want processes you can incubate in one area and deploy it horizontally in all areas,” said Davis. Industry, community, education and government partners are all heavily invested in STEM East.  “This is something that knits together economic development and educational development to make this a viable community,” said Julian Pridgen, local Pastor and STEM East board member.

STEM East is transforming how we think about education. “We do not want to work in silos anymore,” said Steve Hill, STEM East Executive Director. Without a regional approach which brings together all stakeholders, education reform remains segmented and disconnected from industry needs.

Lenoir County Superintendet, Steve Mazingo, is highly vested in the success of STEM East and praises accomplishments to date. “We have to get kids excited about what they are doing. We are right on the edge of something huge.”

Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier went on to add, “The partnerships you have are extraordinary. I plan to brag about all the good work you are doing here.”