The region’s four Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) have joined with the business community, community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, research institutions, and other educational and community organizations to launch a new initiative aimed at giving area students the tools to succeed in the 21st century workforce.
Questar III BOCES District Superintendent James N. Baldwin took part in the April 23rd announcement of the formation of the Tech Valley STEMSmart Alliance – a coalition of education and business leaders from across a 13-county region that stretches from Columbia and Greene counties to Warren and Washington counties.
The coalition includes Questar III BOCES, Capital Region BOCES, Hamilton, Fulton, Montgomery BOCES, and Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES, as well as the Center for Economic Growth, SUNY and other institutions of higher learning.
“The STEMSmart Alliance is a community-led collaborative. In effect, it’s a local network of STEM leaders from higher education, K-12 education, business, government and community organizations working together to leverage resources, create best practices and build awareness for and about STEM education efforts in our area,” Baldwin said at the announcement, which took place at the WMHT TV studios in North Greenbush. Baldwin spoke on behalf of the four district superintendents present.
The Tech Valley STEMSmart Alliance is part of the larger Empire State STEM Learning Network, which constitutes a series of regions across the state that connect teachers, businesses and universities to the latest in STEM-related programs, teaching practices and innovations.
The goals of the alliance are to:
- Challenge more students to take more rigorous and engaging course work in STEM disciplines;
- Increase the number of rich professional learning opportunities for teachers and other educators of STEM subjects; and,
- Build awareness of STEM in the community.
In general, the mission of the alliance – and the Empire State STEM Learning Network – is to connect schools to STEM-related programs, partnerships and curriculum. This includes universities, businesses settings, research facilities, or government entities.
Johanna Duncan-Poitier, senior vice chancellor for community colleges & the education pipeline for SUNY, said educators and businesses have a major task at hand – closing the gap between the skills that students are graduating with and the skills employees are seeking.
“There are 140,000 STEM related positions in the top 30 Fortune 500 companies that cannot be filled” because of this gap. “That is a tragedy.”
But she also stated that the leadership and partnership between educators and businesses in the region is strong, giving the Capital Region a leg-up on other regions in the state in meeting the challenge.
“The Capital Region is light years ahead of other regions in the state in terms of the nanotechnology and partnerships that exist,” she said.
Among the other speakers at the announcement were educators, students, business leaders and school district superintendents.
Stephen Tomlinson, superintendent of the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District, challenged his peers and boards of education across the region to innovate, even while the economy is ravaging the education funding model.
“Change is here in New York State. The time is now. Even at a time when we (the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District) will be laying off teachers, we will be offering new courses in the fall (that focus on STEM). We will offer robotics and nanotechnology, intro to computer aided design, intro to engineering and more to challenge our students.”
As part of the alliance, Tech Valley High School and Ballston Spa Central School District will serve as platform schools – centralized hubs – that model some of the STEM initiatives already in place.
“Tech Valley High School and the Clean Technologies and Sustainable Industries Early College High School are great examples of schools that are focused on collaboration and innovation in preparing students to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities in STEM throughout our region,” said Capital Region BOCES District Superintendent Charles Dedrick. “The formation of the STEMSmart Alliance allows us to align the work we are all doing in this important area to ensure that we are sharing best practices and making a dramatic impact on education for all of our students.”
Launched in 2010, Empire STEM Learning Network is a statewide, community-led collaborative. The Network’s mission is to advance STEM education to prepare all students – regardless of their career goals – for college and career success, to fuel innovation and economic vitality in the Empire State. Hosted by the State University of New York with start-up support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Battelle and the AT&T Foundation, the Network also collaborates with other state STEM networks to share knowledge and expertise to accelerate progress and expand impact.
Together with my colleagues … District Superintendents Chuck Dedrick, Jim Dexter and Pat Michel … I’m pleased to announce the formation of a new virtual alliance to advance science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in our region.
Today, the region’s four BOCES are joining with school districts, the business community, community colleges, universities, research institutions, and others to create the Tech Valley STEMSmart Alliance – an initiative facilitated by an important partner in Tech Valley’s continuing evolution, the Center for Economic Growth.
This is a community-led collaborative. In effect, it’s a local network of STEM leaders from higher education, K-12 education, business, government and community organizations working together to leverage resources, create best practices and build awareness for and about STEM education efforts in our area.
It will not only span the Greater Capital Region, but it will also be part of a statewide network committed to advancing STEM – the Empire STEM Learning Network administered by the State University of New York. The Tech Valley STEMSmart Alliance is one of ultimately 10 regional hubs throughout New York State that are connected by this Network.
The mission is to advance and implement sustainable, scalable STEM education as we focus on making sure every student is “college and career ready”.
The initial partners who have been involved in assembling this Alliance have agreed on four overarching goals:
- Extending the impact of STEM resources by connecting, supporting and scaling existing STEM programs, curriculum initiatives, and partnerships, of which Tech Valley already boasts many.
- Building broad awareness and understanding for STEM education, because community support and student participation are key.
- Increasing the capacity of administrators and teachers to deliver high-quality STEM instruction and project-based learning by providing expanded STEM instruction and project-based professional development.
- And finally, promoting and coordinating the considerable business and educational assets of the region to expose all students to 21st century careers and education here in Tech Valley.
As you know, Tech Valley already has several excellent models of innovative STEM education initiatives.
They include Tech Valley High School – a joint venture of Questar III and Capital Region BOCES – recently recognized as one of three outstanding STEM high schools in the country; and the Clean Technologies and Sustainable Industries Early College High School Program, an innovative partnership between Ballston Spa Central School District, NYSERDA and the Hudson Valley Community College Extension Center at TEC-SMART.
Collectively, Questar III BOCES, Capital Region BOCES, Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES and HFM BOCES offer STEM programs in a number of areas – green/alternative energy, information technology, health care, mechanical technology, engineering, scientific research, gaming/multi-media/web design, internet and phone app design, advanced construction and HVAC/R to name a few.
Today, as the Board of Regents considers a new initiative to provide students with more rigorous academic opportunities and greater flexibility and pathways to graduation, BOCES STEM-based career and technical education, the TEC-SMART program and Tech Valley High – are helping more students achieve – academically, and in a career interest… through post-secondary connections – - technical certification, licensing, college credit, internship and job placement opportunities.
These are exactly the kinds of opportunities we seek to expand through the formation of this alliance.
To demonstrate the broad base of support for this initiative, each BOCES region will be represented by a different speaker today – a STEM student and teacher from Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES, a board member from Guilderland and a school superintendent from Broadalbin-Perth.
Ultimately, the Tech Valley STEMSmart Alliance is about connecting, supporting, and scaling the region’s considerable STEM assets and initiatives to ensure that our students can compete regionally and globally in emerging STEM careers.