With the number of aerospace jobs outpacing the amount of trained engineers to fill them, the Metro Center, in collaboration with Pierce County, created the online curriculum: STEM Mentor Training. This curriculum encourages companies in the aerospace and STEM-based sectors to support the growth of their industry by mentoring the next generation of engineers.
The High Demand for STEM Professionals
Over 700 manufacturing businesses comprise the aerospace industry in the Puget Sound region. This vital industry offers high paid engineering positions, yet finding local workers with the required Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education is challenging. Additionally, the current workforce is aging, with as much as 50 percent of the current engineering workforce facing retirement, leaving even more jobs unfilled. For the local aerospace industry to remain regionally and globally competitive and to ensure a robust workforce for the future, it is essential to improve the K-12 STEM pipeline – creating an environment that encourages youth to pursue STEM careers.
Encouraging STEM Academic Paths
STEM Mentor Training is a free online course that helps engineers and other STEM professionals learn how to engage and inspire youth to pursue STEM studies. The engineers provide youth with real-life examples of STEM careers, and help them make the connection between their current studies and a rewarding future in high-paying jobs.
STEM Mentor Training supports existing STEM programs by training volunteers who can effectively encourage students’ academic path into engineering and STEM fields. STEM Mentor Training also provides an opportunity for local businesses to give back to the community. A business can provide support to encourage a cohort of employees to take the training.
What Is STEM Mentor Training?
The Metro Center created STEM Mentor Training for busy professionals. Hosted by the Washington State University (WSU) Global Campus, the training consists of five user-friendly units with activities to help STEM Mentors practice new skills. The lessons are versatile enough to appeal to many different learning styles and are grounded in evidence-based youth development principles.
Mentors learn about: youth development, experiential learning, K-12 academic standards for science and math, behavior management strategies and tips, how to connect with youth and more. It also includes a selection of resources with additional mentoring strategies and hands-on tools to use with youth.
The four desired outcomes of STEM Mentor Training include:
- Increase the number of students continuing to take STEM electives during their secondary education and to improve their academic success.
- Increase the enrollment, graduation rates and academic success of high school graduates in post-secondary education STEM coursework and fields.
- Increase college-level internships with Puget Sound businesses.
- Increase the number of locally trained aerospace workforce employees.
Data collection regarding these outcomes are in the process of collection.
- Metropolitan Center for Applied Research and Extension: Brad Gaolach & Martha Aitken
- WSU Economic Development: Alexis Holzer
- WSU Extension Youth Development faculty: Sue Lerner
- Snohomish County Extension Director: Curt Moulton
- Pierce County STEM Mentor Training Project Coordinator: Lani Neill
- WSU Economic Development: Alyssa Patrick
- WSU College of Engineering graduate: Sarah Peckinpaugh
The Metro Center
Throughout the development of STEM Mentor Training, the Metro Center provided comprehensive project management from inception to conclusion, as they do for every project. They insured deliverables and provided their client, Pierce County, with timely reports and a single point of contact for both the financial and content-related aspects of the project.
Assembling The Project Team
After consulting with local school districts and current STEM programs, the Metro Center assembled a diverse team that utilized WSU’s expertise in youth development, economic development and STEM education to create the curriculum. The primary author of the training was a WSU youth development faculty member, former classroom teacher and a previous K-12 administrator; the Assistant Director of the WSU Economic Development provided the Metro Center with critical connections to the local aerospace industry; a graduate of WSU’s College of Engineering provided the STEM expertise; WSU County Extension directors engaged with local STEM programs; and Global Campus staff published the courses to WSU’s online platform.