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Another Voice: STEM Hub helps prepare workers for cool-collar jobs

By Cheryl N. Messore

When the movie “The Graduate” was released in 1967, Benjamin Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman) was given a one-word piece of career advice: plastics. Fast forward 50 years: if we made that movie today, that word would be technologies.

News business reporter David Robinson’s column, “To grow jobs, Buffalo needs to be cool,” said the local gap for computer and technology skills is a significant barrier to finding talent and meeting local job demands. Robinson is right. Employers across all industries are concerned about the talent pool to address this gap, including: health care, manufacturing, finance, retail, government and tourism. The “cool-collar” jobs of today and tomorrow require STEM skills to meet the market demand.

Part of WNY STEM Hub’s mission is to support the workforce pipeline for our region’s emerging and evolving economy. We do that by collaborating across all sectors to facilitate programs to expose students to career pathways in high-demand STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) occupations.

Local employers have a vested interest in this. Today’s students (and their parents) must be wholly aware of high-demand jobs. Businesses like AT&T, Citi, GM, National Grid, Praxair, Siemens, Yahoo! and others partner with WNY STEM to create high-impact learning experiences for ’tweens and teens. Why? Cultivating tomorrow’s workers doesn’t start in college or high school with a career fair; it must be begin earlier and be life-changing.

From the employers’ standpoint, WNY STEM Hub partnerships are an investment in their future workforce and are a bedrock to their success.
For WNY STEM Hub, working directly with employers brings strength and authenticity to experiences we provide. WNY STEM Hub – with support from AT&T – facilitated the region’s first all-female coding experience, the Girls Coding Project, in collaboration Girl Scouts of Western New York, SUNY Buffalo State and GM.

Over two summers, more than 70 girls produced products, applied coding languages and met women mentors from the community who shared valuable career development advice. Citi (which put a spotlight on the need for more women in tech jobs) and Yahoo! partner in WNY STEM Hub’s Career Exploration Partnership to educate students about tech and math-based professionals in the financial and technology sector.

Praxair, Siemens are leaders behind WNY STEM Hub’s participation in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, where student teams develop experiments to test on the International Space Station. AT&T also partnered to found and fund WNY STEM Hub’s Hand in Hand, Powered by AT&T program, a unique collaboration where students designed prosthetic hands for three local children using design technology and 3D printers.

These experiences are transformative, and only happen with strategic collaboration between businesses that have an eye on their future and WNY STEM Hub’s commitment to guide student energies toward next generation innovation.

Cheryl N. Messore is executive director of WNY STEM Hub.

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