FloridaLearns STEM Scholars Launches STEM Talent Development Campaign

“The future of Florida’s economy is at stake. Without a highly skilled and educated Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) proficient workforce, the state will be unable to develop a strong, diversified economy,” is the clear message being urgently declared throughout Florida today. Knowing all too well the impact of their critical economic challenges and related talent development needs, some 27 Florida small and rural school districts from three rural regions of the state joined together last year to create the FloridaLearns STEM Scholars Initiative as one way to respond to this urgent and important call for action.The FloridaLearns STEM Scholars Initiative is a joint venture of Florida’s three rural regional educational consortia through a Florida Department of Education, Race to the Top funded project to the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium and its partners. It addresses the need for some of Florida’s most under-served students, the gifted and talented students from the 27 small and rural school districts within the partnership, to have increased access to STEM-related courses and rigorous and challenging authentic learning experiences. Goals of the initiative align with key goals of Florida’s Chamber Foundation; those of ensuring our state can successfully recruit, train, and retain STEM talent for Florida’s economic future. Students who are participating in the project hail from three regions of the state: Northwest, served by the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium (PAEC), Northeast, served by the North East Florida Educational Consortium (NEFEC), and the rural South Central Heartland counties in Florida served by the Heartland Educational Consortium (HEC).

“It is imperative that we afford rural Florida’s most capable students glimpses into the STEM workplace and authentic STEM workplace experiences to help our state address this critical talent development need”, states Brenda Crouch, the FloridaLearns STEM Scholars Project Manager at the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium. “We need help from Florida’s STEM stakeholders – business, industry, educational institutions, government agencies, economic development, chambers of commerce, trade associations, foundations, workforce development, and other STEM related groups– to help us enroll partners to provide these STEM workplace opportunities in our rural counties of the state,” she explained.

To achieve this mission, FloridaLearns STEM Scholars is launching a STEM Talent Development Campaign in conjunction with the opening of School Year 2012 -2013. The purpose is to recruit STEM professionals and workplace sites in the local communities of its STEM Scholars. From September through December, local chambers of commerce, economic developers, civic clubs, agencies of Florida’s Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI), regional workforce boards, faith-based groups and other rural based organizations, will be approached by representatives from one of the three FloridaLearns STEM Scholars Regional Advisory Committees, comprised of regional STEM stakeholder leaders, or project staff to help the initiative recruit potential STEM Talent Developers throughout the campaign outreach in Florida’s three rural regions.

Joining together, the three regional educational consortia executive directors, Pat McDaniel, PAEC, Dr. Jim Surrency, NEFEC and Tom Conner, HEC, ask for your help in preparing regional high school students who are participating in the initiative to become STEM talent ready to enter Florida’s STEM career pipeline. “Students throughout Florida’s rural school districts have skills and abilities that must not go untapped. We strongly encourage business and community leaders across the state to become an integral part of Florida’s economic development future by joining us as a STEM Talent Developer in the Northwest, Northeast or Heartland regions of our state,” they add.

How can you as a STEM stakeholder become a partner in helping shape Florida’s economic future through support of its students in the state’s small and rural counties? By contacting project personnel at stem@paec.org you will receive the STEM Talent Development packet with specific information about enrollment and commitment opportunities. Your role as a STEM Talent Developer may involve you providing any or all of these opportunities for a gifted or academically talented high school junior: shadowing experience; college or career coaching; paid or non-paid internship experience; workplace tour; and/or student advocacy. You may also help by providing an opportunity for project staff or regional advisory group members to share their STEM Talent Developer recruitment message, a 5 minute project developed DVD with brochures, at an appropriate local meeting where potential STEM Talent Developers are in attendance, such as a monthly chamber of commerce or civic meeting.

For more information about this initiative, please visit the FloridaLearns STEM Scholars website at www.floridalearnsstemscholars.org or contact Brenda Crouch at crouchb@paec.org “The small amount of time you invest now has potential for significant impact in both the life of a student today and Florida’s economy tomorrow. STEM stakeholder partnerships in this mission are critical to our success,” Crouch concluded.

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