Kitsap Sun : Creating a path to the workforce for more Kitsap students

By Perry England, Vice-President of Building Performance at MacDonald-Miller & Robb Andrade is the Branch General Manager for Siemens Industry, Inc. in Washington.

As members of the business community and parents of Washington students, we are committed to strengthening the connection between Washington employers and our young people, including shaping strategies that create and sustain a high-skill, high-wage economy.

We have seen first-hand results in increased access to career pathways for youth in the region by working shoulder-to-shoulder with educators and our communities.

As business leaders, we are acutely aware of the emergent issues facing our future workforce. In the next five years, an estimated 225,465 jobs that earn a family-sustaining wage will require credentials that many of our Washington students are not on track to earn. In the West Sound region alone, 13,640 high-paying jobs that will become available over the next 5 years will need a credential.

To address this deficit, we at MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions and Siemens are partnering with the West Sound STEM Network to invest time and resources into preparing our next generation of students through career-connected learning (CCL) programs. As employers, we support flexible and practical CCL programs since they combine classroom instruction with relevant, real-world experience that prepares students for our rapidly changing economy. CCL programs offer a rich variety of educational opportunities for students to explore and discover jobs and careers that inspire them to grow and succeed. Career Launch programs, another part of Career Connect Washington, combine paid, meaningful employment with classroom learning to earn credentials. This includes learning at the K-12, apprenticeship, community college, and 4-year levels.

The West Sound STEM Network has brought together a dynamic collaboration of educators, business leaders, non-profits, out-of-school providers, and representatives from local government and the military, all of whom are working together to introduce and link students, teachers and the community to the vast array of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) resources in our region. This effort has resulted in a group of employers committing to a public-private partnership with West Sound STEM Network and several regional Community & Technical Colleges to establish the first-of-its-kind controls programmer apprenticeship program for youth and adults. Programs like this address local employers’ immediate need for skilled labor, while creating a talent pipeline for the future of our workforce. They plan to train 30 students in 2019 and scale up in future years, thus providing local youth with flexible career pathways with multiple entry points, especially at the high school level.

Here on the Kitsap Peninsula, we have been successful in creating regionally unique pathways that combine classroom learning with meaningful, on-the-job work experiences that expose students to post-secondary degrees and credentials. It is now time to scale up this system statewide into the Career Connect Washington initiative, so all students get the skillsets they need to be Washington’s leaders, thinkers, and doers.

Voters share this sentiment across the state. In a February 2019 statewide poll conducted by Washington STEM, 94% of voters agreed that the state needs to do more to provide students and the public with information about fast-growing, family-sustaining wage jobs, many of which are STEM-related. 84% of voters believe it’s important for students at every level to have access to career-connected learning opportunities like internships, youth apprenticeships, and real-world project-based learning.

As we approach the last weeks of the legislative session, lawmakers in Olympia have tough decisions ahead of them on which initiatives and programs to fund. We urge legislators to prioritize funding the statewide Career Connect Washington system since it is an investment in the future of our children, of our economy, and of our state. Our children’s ability to understand and apply STEM principles not only increases their understanding of the world but also translates to innovation and advancement for local business and industry.

More news: STEM Stories

Categories: General

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