Ed Zenzola, conference speaker and principal of Zenzola Group
, our education system increasingly requires the expertise and advice of small to large business owners to stay relevant in the digital economy. Nationally, over three million STEM-related jobs are unfilled because employers can’t find qualified workers.
“You could hire an engineer, but you still have to train them,” Zenzola says. “There’s not enough happening in K-12 to build the imagination for students to want to go into STEM fields. Even when we do have students going through STEM curriculum, the curriculum isn’t designed to produce the work ready skills that the employers need.”
The conference, sponsored by Temple’s College of Engineering and the Global Program Partners, included presentations by Tracy Welson-Rossman, Founder of TechGirlz; Craig White,President & CEO of Philadelphia Gas Works, and Albert Frattarola, Director Global Technology, Southco. Many noted the STEM gap is not simply a higher ed issue.
“[STEM qualifications] are particularly critical at the technician level,” Zenzola says. “We just don’t have enough people coming out of high school, community colleges and vocational schools with work ready ]technical skills. People might think [Philadelphia] has a lot of welders—we don’t. Welding is becoming increasingly specialized.”
Zenzola, like many presenters, advocates project-based STEM learning for K12 and looks to the business community for leadership. Dr. Jamie Bracey, an educational psychology professor at Temple and director of Philadelphia's Math Engineering Science Achievement Initiative
, has seen the dramatic effect of workshop learning on students and says guidance from the private sector also helps teachers do a better job.
“Educators need direction as to what business project they’re going to need in five years and 10 years so we can align the programs," Bracey says.“I love seeing the corporations that are the end users inside education and the people who are starting businesses having a much stronger voice in the classroom.”
Source: Ed Zenzola, Jamie Bracey, Delaware Valley STEM Workforce Development Conference