Across the state (and nationally) jobs in STEM are going unfilled because of a lack of understanding on the part of parents, teachers, children, guidance counselors, and others about the wide variety of occupations that exist, pay scales, and what it takes to get there. WDI Long Island Regional Director Rosalie Drago has made it a priority to develop a multi-pronged strategy to change this situation. In order to effectively build a pipeline of workers and put Long Islanders into meaningful careers, Drago feels strongly that career awareness and exposure needs to be ongoing; embedded in both the business strategy of employers as well as the curriculum in the classrooms. It also needs to be seen as a value to all students – college bound or not.
To that end, October 27th marked Drago’s latest effort in this arena, which saw her working with Huntington Township to bring together industry representatives, parents, teachers, children in grades 9-12, and guidance counselors at a unique career awareness fair. Industry representatives from manufacturing, the trades, IT, healthcare, and the creative sector each spoke about their industries, career opportunities, pay scales, related skills, and education required. Break-out sections allowed the parents, teachers, children, and guidance counselors to go from sector to sector asking more specific questions. Career maps for featured occupations were provided. Connections were made for teachers to help create work exposure/internships for students. Teachers were also provided with continuing education credits. The fair reached 165 students from 8 school districts. This was the first forum of its’ type targeted not only to the children, but also to the adults responsible for helping them make educational and career choices.
This effort was one of many that Drago helped coordinate during the past year, and others that are just getting under way:
Curriculum to Careers Program
Drago has facilitated employer connections for school districts in South Huntington, Westbury, and Hicksville. In each district, the school was paired with an employer who presented at the school and then provided a site tour. The employers are also providing ongoing mentoring to both teachers and students to ensure relevant skills are built into curriculums.
· Spectronics – 13 students along with the Work Based Learning Coordinator and Business Teacher toured the facility. They met with CEO, Director of Operations and HR Director. The students wrote an article for the school publication. Spectronics will also be training the teachers how to use the 3D printer at the school to create industry-related school curriculum and projects.
· Novartis – Novartis visited Westbury and Hicksville High Schools, presented to the Guidance Counselor, Work Based Learning Coordinator and Business Teacher. This was followed by a student tour including a focus on STEM subjects and their application in manufacturing.
Career Ambassadors for People of Color
Drago is partnering with the Urban League to identify, train and deploy senior level people of color from Manufacturing/Biotech and Finance to visit Long Island’s high-minority schools and discuss career pathways. The ambassadors will help students understand how to prepare for and access STEM careers. Ambassadors will also facilitate site tours and provide mentorship.
Workforce Development Information for Work Based Learning Coordinators
Drago is providing quarterly data to LI’s Work Based Learning Coordinators in several high schools so that they can share information about local careers, in-demand occupations, skills, credentials and educational requirements with teachers, students, guidance counselors and parents.
Drago feels the ongoing, multi-pronged approach being developed on Long Island is the key to gaining traction with this workforce problem. Time and support for facilitation of the effort is the key.