Summit to Focus on STEM

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Summit to Focus on STEM

To continue the STEM talent development, the inaugural Eastern North Carolina Employers and Education Summit will take place at Miller’s Landing Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point on Dec. 2.

Building a strong educated workforce continues to be one of the top priorities locally and throughout the struggling Eastern North Carolina region.

With people in higher education knowing exactly what regional business leaders need in their future employees, young students are being prepared for science, technology, engineering and mathematic careers. The Eastern Region’s STEM East initiative has been designed to reshape a once tobacco-and-textile dependent workforce into a skills-rich, STEM-literate base of employees, who are attracting 21st-century employers to the area.

To continue the STEM talent development, the inaugural Eastern North Carolina Employers and Education Summit will take place at Miller’s Landing Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point on Dec. 2. John Chaffee, president and chief executive officer of NC East Alliance, said the summit is an opportunity to bring employers and educators together to learn about how their collaborative efforts can produce skilled graduates, and meet the needs of the emerging workforce requirements by business and industry.

The invitation is open to all educators and employers within the NC East Alliance. Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Anthony Jackson and staff members are scheduled to attend the summit.

“I am excited about attending and participating in the summit,” Jackson said. “As a school district, we are focused on ensuring that our students are prepared for future opportunities and possibilities. We recognize that we must develop and forge relationships with our local business and industry partners to clarify our understanding of their needs as we continue working to develop a viable pipeline of future skilled employees ready to support and meet local and regional workforce needs.”

Panel discussions will be about employers engaging with educators to develop aligned long-term workforce pipelines. Employers will learn about the opportunities to influence education pathways and to produce an employee development process, added Chaffee.

“The NC East heavily promoted ACT’s WorkKeys profiles and Career Readiness Certification program endorsed by the Manufacturing Institute,” Chaffee said. “We have worked hard with area community colleges and public schools to ensure the STEM offerings align with the Career Readiness Certification.”

Chaffee said the summit was developed because of the ongoing advancement of the STEM East Initiative and partnerships from Eastern North Carolina’s largest advanced manufacturer, the U.S. Naval Base Fleet Readiness Center East, Craven County Schools and N.C. State University.

Chaffee said Craven County Schools has developed a pathway for engineers. The expansion of STEM centers includes seven counties and an investment of more than $8 million in Eastern North Carolina, added Chaffee.

“There have been documented savings on employee development and attrition reductions to the point that we decided this needed to be demonstrated as an example of what STEM East is scaling out to the region,” he said. “We figured it was time to get companies onboard for the long run. They have been involved in selecting modules or curriculum and setting up support programs for kindergarten through 12 education and beyond. Now, we’re looking to build a sustainable employment model with employers consistently at the helm leading the work. East Carolina University engineering program and other college departments have also been major contributors to improving the connectivity between schools, community colleges and the university.”

The continuing need to develop a viable workforce is important for the future economy of Eastern North Carolina

“The need for a sustainable workforce is at the top of all executive surveys when asked what community traits are necessary to attract investment,” he said. “We’re not only serving the needs of existing employers, but making it more attractive to outside companies that are seeking new places to invest and create jobs. Creating an aligned, clearly defined “pipeline” that can be influenced by the employer as skill projections change is a key economic impact factor. This process benefits the employer, the community and especially the graduates.”



Staff Writer, Rocky Mount Telegram