AGCEF and Partners Promote STEM in Seattle Public Schools

It’s not just industries that need students to be more proficient in science technology engineering and science – it’s also kids who need to see the promise of careers in science technology engineering and science.

That’s the message that members of the STEM Industry Partnership including the AGC Education Foundation (AGEF) gave to Seattle width=400Schools Superintendent José Banda at a recent event at McKinstrys Innovation Center. Representatives from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research and the Manufacturing Industrial Council as well as other business education and local government leaders joined AGEF for the informal discussion with Superintendent Banda about STEM issues and ways that industry could help the District expand STEM-related programs.

“I think its important to expose children to the types of work adults do to live and make a living” said Don Grimes AGC Education Foundation board member. “The earlier a child is exposed to any profession the better the decision by that child when its time to decide what he or she wants to do in life.” Grimes noted that the STEM Industry Partners can help Seattle Public Schools identify what skills are necessary for students to succeed in the world.

“We want to be a partner with the School District” said Nancy Hutchison who directs the Science Education Partnership at the Hutch. “There are a lot of great jobs in the area getting filled but the numbers say that many are not being filled by graduates of Seattle schools; we’re importing them. We want more local kids to have these opportunities. We want to show kids the opportunities show them how what they learn can be applied in the real world towards getting good jobs. To help excite kids early on we need the business community to be involved to meet with kids help them envision their future and say ‘yeah I could do that.’”

Members of the STEM Industry Partnership have been meeting with representatives from the District for months leading up to the event at McKinstry. Specifically the partners asked Banda to include STEM-based career learning in the districts new strategic plan and similar strategic efforts and let him know that the industry partners are ready to help.

Although the concept of STEM education tends to suggest higher education the Industry Partners are focused on K-12.

“When you consider those who are involved in construction and the flow of a project -- the owner architect structural or civil engineer contractor project manager superintendent labor subcontractors and suppliers -- everyone involved needs aspects STEM to do their job” explained Grimes. “The STEM Industry Partners can help the Seattle Public Schools identify what skills are necessary for students to succeed in the world. We encouraged the District to implement programs that lead to employment right after high school or create interest in fields that require a college degree or special certifications.”

Similarly Hutchison noted that in the life sciences STEM-related jobs are often not of the advanced-degree variety. “Consider that an organization like the Hutch needs in addition to research scientists facilities engineers to keep our buildings and equipment running and to make our buildings operate more efficiently and more cost effectively” she said. “We need grant writers who understand math and are able to talk about the science. Those are just a few examples -- if more people had strong grounding in STEM we’d benefit in so many ways.”

AGC Education Foundation Executive Director Diane Kocer hopes the recent event will spark more conversations among teachers district staff and representatives from a range of STEM-based industries. Our hope is to support teachers and students and to grow the network and resources that can foster engaged student learning in STEM and this dialogue with Superintendent Banda is an important step in that process Kocer said.

For more information about the STEM Industry Partnership contact Diane Kocer 206-284-4500.

Photo: Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw (right) presents a STEM Trailblazer Award to Princess Shariff Principal of Cleveland High School during the STEM Industry Partners event with Superintendent Banda. Cleveland is a STEM program with two academies School of Life Sciences and School of Engineering & Design.