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Highwood hosts STEM workshop for educators

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    Educators from Carbon, Schuylkill and Luzerne counties gathered at Highwood USA in Tamaqua for a STEM workshop. JUSTIN CARLUCCI/TIMES NEWS

Published October 19. 2019 05:34AM

STEM programs and organizations have been trending upward over the past few years, and for good reason.

On Wednesday morning, Highwood USA in Tamaqua hosted the CSL STEM Ecosystem Kickoff to the National STEM Day, which is Nov. 8.

What exactly is a STEM ecosystem? They’re all over the world, but there is one large, local group.

“It’s a collaboration. There are 75 partners in Carbon, Schuylkill and Luzerne counties,” said Francine Kluck, CSL STEM ecosystem coordinator. “We have schoolteachers, health care providers, colleges and IUs, as well as business and industry leaders are involved. We all come to the table once a quarter and we discuss STEM programming and how to make our schools more aware of it.”

The CSL ecosystem hosted a news conference to start the day. Kluck was joined by speakers Dr. Anthony Greico, Luzerne IU; Shannon Brennan, Schuylkill Technology Center; Rachel Strucko, Lehigh Carbon Community College SHINE; and Danielle Hess, COO Highwood USA.

“We are actually one of six ecosystems in Pennsylvania,” Kluck said. “We’re trying to bring STEM opportunities from grade-school on up to after-school programs, as well as to higher education institutions. We’re going to have a National Stem Week on Nov. 4. We’re going to have activities available in our schools that would be promoting CSL STEM Ecosystem, and really just getting the word out in awareness about STEM job opportunities in the future, and the 21st century employ-abilities.”

Multiple presenters mentioned the rising number of vacant jobs due to a STEM skills gap, especially in the manufacturing industry. In fact, according to a National Association of Manufactures article from 2018, 488,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs in our country were reported.

“The STEM program is very important to us as manufacturers,” Hess said. “We have a strong need for a lot of different STEM skills. It’s not just engineers … but there is also a strong need for STEM skills at our hourly level as well. As you walk through the plant, you’ll probably notice where those applications come in. You’ll see a lot of computers. We use an ERP system, which all of our technicians are responsible for understanding and utilizing on a daily basis.”

Monday’s experience included a Teacher in the Workplace workshop, featuring about 25 participating educators from the area that had an opportunity to check out Highwood’s plant. A great opportunity to engage and dive deeper into STEM, and discuss how to incorporate it into the future generations of workers.

“All educators and teachers are provided with the training and tools to ensure students are STEM competent and STEM literate,” Greico said. “The mission of our ecosystem is to be the catalyst to build a strong and collaborative effort among educational institutions, businesses and community members resulting in successful workforce through intentional STEM initiatives.”

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