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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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4

Lessons Learned and Analysis

The five regional meetings in Phoenix, Cleveland, Montgomery, Los Angeles, and Fargo generated productive discussions among the wide range of stakeholders convened at each event, which included leadership and employees of local and regional businesses; administrators, faculty, students, and staff from 2- and 4-year institutions of higher education; representatives of nonprofit organizations; local and state policy makers; and representatives of local and regional economic development organizations. Participants spoke openly about the barriers they perceived that hinder the development of a strong science, technology, engineering, and mathematics–related (STEM-related) workforce and that impede effective communication and productive, sustainable partnerships between higher education and businesses in their regional economies. They also shared their successes and the many lessons they have learned working together to initiate, develop, and sustain effective workforce development partnerships that meet their region’s STEM workforce needs.

This chapter first outlines the major workforce requirements—including skills and better connectivity between educators and employers—as articulated by employers present at the five regional events. Second, it summarizes the barriers that participants described as standing in the way of both a strong STEM economy and effective and sustained workforce development partnerships. Third, it presents a set of promising practices that workshop participants identified as key to building and sustaining these effective partnerships.

WORKFORCE NEEDS AS ARTICULATED BY EMPLOYERS

Employers and economic development professionals across the five regions described a similar set of criteria for building a strong STEM workforce. Participants reported that, in many cases, the pool of potential employees is too small. Too often, companies requiring a STEM-competent workforce lack a sufficient quantity of people possessing the basic requirements for success in a given industry.1 A participant in Fargo, for example, observing that economies are becoming less dependent on financial capital and more dependent on human capital for a wide range of companies in software, pharmaceuticals, and applied materials, described how talent of every type is in short supply in that region, especially in the managerial and technical ranks. In Montgomery, a participant spoke to the undersupply of people trained in more highly skilled STEM areas and the need for STEM education to be a priority for policy makers in Alabama.

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1There has been much debate among employers, educators, and policy makers (and in the academic literature and popular press) about whether the United States faces a shortage or surplus of STEM workers. See Carnavale et al. (2011), STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Washington, DC: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce; Rothwell (2013), The Hidden STEM Economy, Washington, DC: The Brookings Institute; Salzman (2013), “What Shortages? The Real Evidence about the STEM Workforce,” Issues in Science and Technology, XXIX(4); National Science Board (February 2015), Revisiting the STEM Workforce. See also Box 2-2 in this report.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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An overarching theme across all five regional workshops was the need for more systematic connectivity among institutions of higher education and local and regional employers. They noted that “one-off,” small, or ad hoc connections between the two sectors are valuable, but much more needs to be done at multiple levels within businesses and higher education to ensure tighter linkages. Third-party intermediaries play a critical role in fostering and maintaining cross-sector collaboration and connectivity. Without the planning, convening, brokering, and evaluating functions that a trusted intermediary provides, it will be difficult to develop and sustain business-education collaborations beyond one-off connections. In addition, participants representing local companies as well as national firms identified specific skills and attributes critical for workplace success that new employees often lack. These include specific, highly technical skills narrowly focused on certain job types; more general technical skills used in a broad array of STEM-related jobs; and employability skills—variously termed professional, workplace-ready, essential, soft, noncognitive, or 21st century skills, or referred to as the 4 Cs (creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking).2

More Systematic Connectivity between Higher Education and Employers

Representatives from small, medium, and large companies all stated that they desired more systematic connectivity between their firms and colleges and universities.3 Participants in Fargo and Phoenix discussed how successful academic-industry relationships need to be clearly defined and how outcomes need to be clearly identified. They described how higher education and industry, working together, need to define the specific, local problems they are trying to solve—for example, the type of engineers needed now and projected to be needed 5 and 10 years in the future, their required skill sets currently and looking ahead, and the total numbers of such employees projected to be needed. Many employers and representatives of higher education and economic development organizations called for partnerships between companies and higher education that go beyond ad hoc efforts and traditional advisory boards to include more substantive industry involvement.

Participants including those in breakout groups in Fargo, Phoenix, and Cleveland discussed how tighter and more effective feedback loops between higher education and employers are needed to ensure that faculty and the leadership of regional colleges and universities have solid knowledge of the skills and competencies their graduates will need in the workforce. Feedback loops provide higher education and industry partners with communication channels that allow both to adapt in real time as new occupations requiring new (or modified) skills and competencies emerge. Continuous feedback and open communication also provide connectivity that allows partners to confront other obstacles that may arise, including personnel changes, funding issues, and intellectual property concerns.

Another consistent theme emerging from the regional workshops was that of employers calling for easier access to institutions of higher education. Local and regional employers reported having difficulty navigating within higher education—both the physical campuses and the administrative structure. When employers wish to connect with higher education, they often have difficulty identifying an initial point of contact at the college or university—an issue emphasized by Jim Searcy, executive director of the Economic Development Association of Alabama; Stacey Breuer, director of human resources at Dooson Bobcat in Fargo; and senior officials at Arizona State University. Beyond the need for this initial point of contact, a number of workshop partici-

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2For the purposes of this report, the committee will use the term employability skills to capture the range of nontechnical skills needed to be successful in the 21st century workplace.

3These observations are consistent with a number of prior efforts that have assessed STEM workforce development partnerships. See National Research Council (2014), Undergraduate Chemistry Education: A Workshop Summary, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; and American Association of Colleges and Universities (2013), It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for Learning and Student Success, Washington, DC.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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pants stressed the importance of dedicating one staff person to cross-sector partnerships and immediately replacing that person if he or she moves out of that role. The committee heard this message in discussion groups in Phoenix, from Francisco Rodriguez, the chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District, and Terri Sandu, the executive director of workforce development and director of the Entrepreneurship Innovation Institute at the Lorain County Community College in Cleveland. Third-party intermediaries can also facilitate and support access and continuity by attending to staffing turnover among partners, encouraging timely redesignation of key contacts, and quickly integrating new key contacts for the cross-sector partnership.

Meeting participants also noted how systematic connectivity needs to include more structured industry participation in students’ educational experiences. In the classroom, there is a need for the use of project-based learning modules drawn from real-world challenges, as emphasized, for example, by Paul Johnson, dean of the School of Engineering at Arizona State University and widely cited as a critical component of effective partnerships by participants during small-group breakout sessions in every regional meeting.

A number of participants in all five regional meetings, including Bud Baeslack, provost of Case Western Reserve University, and Harvey Link, vice president of academic and student affairs at North Dakota State College of Science, spoke of the need for greater opportunity for student internships and apprenticeships throughout the STEM-related workforce. Participants, including leaders in two different communities—Chris Rico, director of innovation in the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, and Michael Mobley, executive director of the Center for Integrated Science, Engineering, and Technology at Grand Canyon University—called for industry participation in the redesign of curricula and labs on campuses.

Technical Skills

Businesses hiring STEM-competent students also seek a great diversity of technical skills, and higher education has a fundamental role to play in developing these skills and competencies. In all five regional meetings, employers described the need for workers who have the necessary technical skills, are capable of transferring these skills to new technical areas, and understand how to apply them in ways that contribute to a company’s mission and goals. These technical skills include more general skills and knowledge (e.g., basic knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, statistics, or quantitative reasoning) that are transferable across STEM fields or careers, as well as skills specific to the industry or a particular company (e.g., the ability to use specific instruments and/or perform specific experimental procedures). In this regard, the committee perceived two possible trends. One was a trend in employer expectations for new graduates, shifting from employers’ willingness to spend considerable time—perhaps a few months—doing onboarding for new hires, to the expectation that new hires will be up to speed in a number of highly technical areas in a matter of weeks. A second possible trend was the preference that some employers at the regional meetings had for skills and shorter-term credentials (such as certificates), over (or in addition to) to STEM majors pursued in 4-year degrees.

Participants at all five regional meetings noted the importance of general technical competencies as a set of abilities that prepare new hires for learning at the workplace and being able to adapt formal knowledge to job-specific objectives. Employers and economic development professionals noted that when companies are hiring, they often seek students with general technical competencies more than those with specific technical skills. For example, a biotechnology company may look for new hires that have basic biology and chemistry knowledge, laboratory and instrumentation skills, knowledge of data analytics, and quantitative reasoning skills.

Jim Searcy, executive director of the Economic Development Association of Alabama, relayed a preference he had heard from employers in his state for students to arrive at the workplace with a basic understanding of the field and the ability to learn—leaving it to the companies to then teach new hires about their culture and their ways of doing particular tasks. A representative of an aerospace company in Cleveland said that even if students are trained in specific technologies on

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

campus, the technologies used in the workplace are often different, and new hires need to be retrained—thus it is critical that employees come to the firm with the ability to learn on the job.

General technical competencies also confer flexibility on new graduates that can be valuable for a company over time. While companies must make hiring decisions according to current needs, the rapid technological change in many fields means that its needs in 2, 5, and 10 years will likely have changed. If its employees have a solid education in basic technical and scientific areas, they are more likely to be successful and an asset to the company over the long term.

Several workshop participants observed that in many cases, coursework (including laboratory courses) can be an effective way to train students with general technical skills, while collaboration between employers and higher education (on or off campus) can be a more effective way to achieve more specific technical training, in part because colleges and universities have limited time and resources (including equipment) with which to cover multiple industries’ specific training needs. See Box 4-1 for a list of selected skills being sought by employers in Phoenix, Cleveland, Montgomery, and Fargo.

BOX 4-1 Selected Technical Skills In Demand by Regional Employersa

Phoenix, AZ Cleveland, OH Montgomery, AL Fargo, ND
Job Function
  • Patient care
  • Patient evaluation
  • Care planning
  • Business process
  • Software engineering
  • Software development
  • Data analysis
  • Technical support
  • Patient care
  • Treatment planning
  • Accounting
  • Business process
  • Manufacturing process
  • Product development
  • Technical support
  • Patient care
  • Treatment planning
  • Technical support
  • System administration
  • Technical writing and editing
  • Data analysis
  • Data management
  • Business process
  • Process engineering
  • Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
  • Manufacturing engineering
  • Patient care
  • Software engineering
  • Manufacturing engineering
  • Technical support
  • Data analysis
  • Technical support
Discipline
  • Electrical engineering
  • Software engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Electrical engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Electrical engineering
  • Civil engineering
  • Electrical engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Chemistry
  • Agronomy
Computer Skills
  • UNIXb
  • SQLb
  • Javab
  • Linuxb
  • Oracleb
  • AutoCADb
  • Javab
  • SQLb
  • UNIXb
  • Javab
  • AutoCADb
  • SQLb
  • Javab

a The skills listed here (some of which are job functions or employment areas) were generated by a series of real-time labor market analyses commissioned by the committee and performed by Jobs for the Future. These skills were all identified in job postings that also listed a bachelor’s degree as a minimum requirement. Due to logistical and practical constraints, the committee was unable to perform a labor market analysis for Los Angeles.

b SQL and Java are programming languages, Oracle is a database management system, and Linux and UNIX are operating systems. AutoCAD is design software.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

Employability and Workforce-Ready Skills

Compared to general or specific technical skills, participants in the five regional meetings spent relatively more time focused on the need for graduates to have much stronger skills in nontechnical areas. This may be due to the difficulty employers have in articulating their needs for certain technical skills, or it may be because STEM graduates tend to be lacking in some of these nontechnical skills.4 These employability skills, or 21st century skills, are conceptualized by employers as attitudes, behaviors, motivational states, and skills that they deem as critical for workplace success.5 A recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, having performed a review of the available literature, grouped 21st century skills into three broad domains—cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. Cognitive 21st century skills include critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving (among many others); intrapersonal skills include flexibility, responsibility, and integrity; and interpersonal skills include teamwork, collaboration, and leadership skills6—types of skills grouped by many workshop participants into the category of employability skills. While this report was comprehensive, there are many other lists of employability skills (and different names for this grouping of skills) that have been developed by different advocacy and employer organizations (see Box 4-2 for additional discussion of these various lists and categorizations).

More broadly, many STEM-competent graduates lack business acumen, an understanding of the constraints and requirements surrounding their efforts at work, including market pressures felt by their employers. In the words of Rosalyn Boxer, vice president for workforce at the Arizona Commerce Authority, students “don’t understand when they come to work what the responsibilities are of being an employee and what the philosophy is of industry that they are going into. They have a very good understanding of the technical aspects of it, but they don’t have the pragmatic side: budgets, time constraints, and how to interact with other departments, other businesses, and suppliers.” Stacey Breuer, director of human resources at Doosan Bobcat in North Dakota, noted that it is not enough for a product to be engineered beautifully, but it must also be satisfying for a customer to interact with and be cost-effective for the company to produce. Paraphrasing Steve Jobs, the late chief executive officer (CEO) of Apple, she said that “engineers can make stuff work, but they can’t necessarily make it beautiful. They can’t necessarily make the product something that you want to own, you want to touch, you want to buy.” Le-Quita Booth, dean of the College of Business Administration at Alabama State University, consistently hears a call from industry partners for “essential skills.” She noted that “if an innovation does not get out of the lab, then it is simply a report;” the challenge is moving an innovation from the laboratory into the industry where it is bought, sold, or traded for a good or service. Case Western Reserve University’s School of Engineering engaged 30 companies in prioritizing the American Society of Civil Engineers’ list of professional skills,7 gave the prioritized list to the engineering faculty, and requested that faculty integrate those areas into coursework and experiential learning. In Fargo, staff from the regional economic development organization are teaching a course on life skills.

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4Hurtado, S., K. Eagan, and B. Hughes (2012). Priming the Pump or the Sieve: Institutional Contexts and URM STEM Degree Attainments. Association for Institutional Research Annual Forum, New Orleans, LA.

5Miller, R. K. (2015). Why the Hard Science of Engineering is No Longer Enough to Meet the 21st Century Challenges. Olin College of Engineering.

6National Research Council (2012). Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

7Available at http://www.asce.org/civil_engineering_body_of_knowledge/. Accessed November 2, 2015.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

BOX 4-2 Describing and Classifying Employability Skills

Business leaders and policy makers are increasingly asking colleges and universities to ensure that graduates possess skills like problem solving, critical thinking, communication, teamwork, conscientiousness, and professionalism. Although there is disagreement on how to describe and classify these skills, numerous employer and advocacy organizations have developed and circulated different lists of skills. It would be impossible to catalog all such lists, so here we offer three lists that seem to resonate most with workshop participants and the committee.

21st Century Skills—from Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century, a 2012 report by the National Research Councila

Based on an extensive literature review, this report classified skills into three competency domains cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal.

Cognitive: critical thinking; problem solving; analysis; reasoning/argumentation; interpretation; decision making; adaptive learning; executive function; information and communications technology literacy; oral and written communication; active listening; creativity; innovation.

Interpersonal: communication; collaboration; teamwork; cooperation; coordination; empathy; trust; service orientation; conflict resolution; negotiation; leadership, responsibility, assertive communication, self-presentation, social influence with others.

Intrapersonal: flexibility; adaptability; artistic and cultural appreciation; responsibility; continuous learning; curiosity; ability to take initiative; self-direction; responsibility; perseverance; productivity; grit; metacognitive skills; professionalism; ethics; integrity; citizenship; career orientation; self-monitoring, self-evaluation, and self-reinforcement; physical and psychological health.

Common Employability Skills—National Network of Business and Industry Associationsb

The National Network represents major business sectors and is funded through a collaborative partnership of Business Roundtable, ACT Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Joyce Foundation, and Lumina Foundation. Member companies represent the source of almost 75 percent of projected job growth through 2020. Based on a survey of its member organizations, the National Network’s skill list classifies skills into four categories.

Personal Skills: integrity; initiative; dependability and reliability; adaptability; professionalism.

People Skills: teamwork; communication; respect.

Applied Knowledge: reading, writing, mathematics, science, technology, critical thinking.

Workplace Skills: planning and organization; problem solving; decision making; business fundamentals; customer focus; working with tools and technology.

Professional Skills—Richard Miller, President, Olin College of Engineeringc

A summary of skills from a variety of industry and academy reports includes the following: ethical behavior and trustworthiness; self-confidence, a positive outlook, sincerity, civility, and accepting responsibility; perseverance and “grit”; effective communication, including advocacy and persuasion; effective collaboration, including leadership, teamwork, and consensus building; entrepreneurial mindset and associated business acumen; interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary thinking; creativity, curiosity, and design; empathy and social responsibility; global awareness and perspective.

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a National Research Council (2012). Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century. Washington DC: The National Academies Press.

b The National Network (2014). Common Employability Skills, A Foundation for Success in the Workplace: The Skills that All Employees Need No Matter Where They Work.

c Miller, R. K. (2015). Why the Hard Science of Engineering is No Longer Enough to Meet the 21st Century Challenges. Olin College of Engineering.

Companies have a strong interest in critical thinking skills. Jim Searcy, executive director of the Economic Development Association of Alabama, discussed the importance of employees’ abilities to work together and to take abstract issues and apply their education to solve problems. In many STEM courses, students become accustomed to pursuing a right answer, whereas in the

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

high-tech, multifaceted workplace, there often is no single correct answer. Employers need graduates who are able to consider all relevant variables for a particular task, begin moving toward a solution, and know what actions to take if they encounter barriers or difficulties (skills that some faculty may desire assistance in learning to teach). An employee of Doosan Bobcat in North Dakota described how students, as new employees at the company, are often unable to anticipate what is next; they do exactly as they are told, as they are accustomed to doing in their coursework. But, she noted, “in industry there is no one right answer in the back of the book and many variables go into decisions.”

The committee also heard from companies that are looking for graduates who can teach themselves new skills quickly—and who can think innovatively and “outside the box.” One of the four characteristics sought by Google, according to Google education evangelist Jaime Casap, is the ability to relearn, for example, new coding languages or new Internet technology (IT) platforms. Because the IT and other STEM industries are changing so rapidly, this ability to relearn on the job, and on one’s own, is a vital characteristic valued by many employers.

Meeting participants called for STEM graduates who have stronger interpersonal skills, including communication skills and the ability to work in multidisciplinary teams. This need was heard widely, from people in higher education (e.g., Michael Mobley, executive director of the Center for Integrated Science, Engineering, and Technology at Grand Canyon University; Bud Baeslack, provost of Case Western Reserve University) and in industry (Stacey Breuer, human resources manager at Doosan Bobcat, and Sherm Syverson, an employee at F-M Ambulance in Fargo). Written and oral communication skills are often poor among companies’ new STEM hires; Greg Lardy, associate vice president for agricultural affairs at North Dakota State University, noted that any instruction that students may have received (perhaps a speech communication course as a freshman or technical writing as a sophomore) is often not sufficient to equip them to communicate efficiently in the workplace. Communication skills were also cited as a key part of the mismatch between expectations in the workplace and the skills brought by recent graduates that was described by Terri Sandu, director of the Entrepreneurship Innovation Institute at Lorrain County Community College in Ohio. Perry Lubbers, vice president of manufacturing at Trail King Industries (Fargo) also noted that a major problem with recent engineering graduates is their inability to communicate effectively with their coworkers, even in daily one-on-one and small group interactions. He described the importance for the company that their new hires spend time on the production floor discussing the day-to-day issues of other employees who assemble the product.

Lastly, given that the experience of many STEM-competent graduates during their undergraduate years is largely confined to interactions with faculty and other students in their majors, meeting participants spoke to the need for graduates to have a stronger ability to interact with people in other disciplines. The workplace often requires that graduates interact effectively with people in different technical fields and with people in nontechnical fields such as finance, marketing, and design. Participants in a breakout session in Phoenix spoke to this need at colleges’ and universities’ departmental level, suggesting that higher education organize curricula around real-world problems rather than around academic disciplines. In Cleveland, Bud Baeslack, provost and executive vice president of Case Western Reserve University, described the need more generally to train engineering students to work with people in different disciplines, from students majoring in various scientific disciplines to business majors.

BARRIERS TO EFFECTIVE INTERACTIONS BETWEEN EMPLOYERS AND HIGHER EDUCATION

Participants at each workshop were encouraged to identify barriers to a strong STEM workforce overall as well as barriers that hinder the development of effective, sustainable workforce development partnerships. Participants in the five regional workshops expressed enthusiasm for stronger relationships between employers and higher education: both sectors see a need

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

for more systematic, region-wide interactions that produce more competent employees who bring greater innovation to companies, contributing in turn to more vibrant regional economies. The following section outlines the structural and cultural barriers workshop participants identified that may weaken a region’s STEM workforce and hinder cross-sector partnerships, respectively.

Barriers to a Strong Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem

Participants in all five regional meetings spoke of the lack of signaling between higher education and regional employers as a major structural barrier hindering the development of regional STEM-related workforces. Faculty, staff, and administrators in higher education lack effective channels by which to understand the needs of regional employers, and in some instances, employers make unrealistic demands of their new hires. Cross-sector partnerships, whose components are discussed below, help to fill this need. Partners looking to increase the alignment between educational resources and the business community will see better results if they start their analysis with an asset map that identifies their regions’ resources, including population, industries, educational institutions, community-based organizations, government, local policies, and other environmental factors.8 A critical feature of this asset map is real-time labor market information (RTLMI). When this inventory is compared to regional economic development goals, the region’s strengths and gaps are more easily identifiable. Areas of competitive advantage can serve as a focal organizing point for partners, and by intentionally organizing their efforts around these occupations and skill sets, organizers can maximize their success,9 although users of RTLMI must be aware of potential market distortions (see Box 4-3).

A second structural barrier or obstacle to a robust STEM workforce is the high level of attrition, especially of women and underrepresented groups, among students in STEM majors. Although interest in STEM credentials continues to grow among high school graduates who plan to attend a college or university,10 6-year degree completion rates remain low—around 40 percent.11 One tool that can help university leaders and faculty understand student movement into and out of STEM majors is a “student migration analysis.”12 This analysis can identify those courses that lead to students leaving a STEM major and can help pinpoint which courses may need to be redesigned or restructured to provide more applied learning activities or other interventions known to boost student persistence. A report in 2012 by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology identified the first 2 years of undergraduate education as a critical inflection point in a student’s pathway from interest in STEM fields to completing a STEM degree and eventually joining the STEM workforce. The report also identified a number of evidence-based interventions that can improve retention and expand the STEM workforce pathway. These include authentic, experiential learning and research activities; curriculum redesign; and wrap-around support services.13 Many of these interventions were also identified by workshop participants and are discussed below. Such interventions represent a critical leverage point for industry engagement in STEM education and workforce development14 and are espe-

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8Jobs for the Future and Achieving the Dream (2014). STEM Regional Collaboratives: The Opportunity.

9Rosenblum, I., and C. Spence (2015). Success in Real-Time: Using Real-Time Labor Market Information to Build Better Middle-Skill STEM Pathways. Jobs for the Future.

10National Science Board (2014); U.S. Department of Education (2013).

11President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (2012). Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in STEM. Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President.

12Koff, R., L. Molter, and K. A. Renninger (2009). Why Students Leave STEM Fields: Development of a Common Data Template and Survey Tool. New York: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

13Ibid.

14President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (2012). Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in STEM. Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

cially valuable ways to broaden participation in STEM and increase the persistence of underrepresented groups in STEM majors.15

A third structural barrier, which lies largely outside of the scope of this study, is the quality of STEM instruction that students receive in the K-12 system.16 In many cities and regions throughout the United States, the STEM education received by students in primary and secondary school grades does not adequately prepare them to pursue STEM-related advanced degrees or careers successfully.

We heard concerns about K-12 STEM instruction in multiple locations around the country. Bob Pawloski, the STEM field coordinator at the University of North Dakota, spoke about K-12 teachers who need to improve or refine their skills in STEM subjects, noting that two-thirds of high-school math students and one-third of students in physical science have teachers who did not major in college in the subject they are certified to teach.17 Participants in a breakout session in Montgomery described the need for more local initiatives to train teachers in STEM and in the scientific method, and a participant in Phoenix called for education that will make K-12 teachers “STEM savvy.” Participants in Montgomery and Cleveland expressed the view that, given the high numbers of high school graduates needing remedial instruction once they reach higher education, the K-12 educational system needs to be reassessed, particularly STEM subjects. Although estimates vary widely across studies, 18,19 the most recent data available from the National Center for Education Statistics indicates that nearly 55 percent of first- and second-year under-

BOX 4-3 Labor Market Dynamics and Market Distortions

The Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF), a membership organization of business of CEOs and university presidents, supports workforce projects in cybersecurity and other emerging STEM fields. Their work in initiating these projects includes intensive labor market analyses across several regions. These analyses have uncovered two distinct types of market distortions: the first derives from the available talent model, and the second from the dominance of government in certain industry sectors. BHEF has developed an understanding of regional cyber talent hiring models by researching its business members’ own talent models and commissioned work from Burning Glass Technologies. These two sources of data suggest that the talent market is skewed toward incumbent workers due to the absence in these regions of a robust talent ecosystem producing new-hire talent. As a result, job postings reflect relatively high levels of experience.

The second dynamic derives from the dominant role of government, and in particular, requirements that government places on aerospace and defense companies that receive government cybersecurity contracts. The National Security Agency requires employees working on government contracts to possess certifications that require a baccalaureate degree and 5 years of relevant experience, thereby excluding recent graduates from the pool of eligible workers.

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15National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. (2016). Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Diverse Student Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

16The quality of K-12 education and the level of preparedness (or lack thereof) of high school graduates is also a major obstacle to students enrolling in and completing majors in STEM fields. See also Engage to Excel, President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 2012.

17National Research Council (2010). Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

18Bettinger, E., et al. (2013). Student Supports: Developmental Education and Other Academic Programs. The Future of Children 23(1), Princeton University.

19Scott-Clayton et al. (2014). Improving the Targeting of Treatment: Evidence from College Remediation. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 36(3):371–393.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

graduate students report taking a remedial course after high school graduation.20 These deficits hinder efforts by institutions of higher education and employers to train and develop a strong local workforce.

The workshops pointed to six key endeavors that can foster greater K-12 student interest, achievement, and persistence in STEM:

  • More hands-on, project-based learning activities for students.
  • Professional development for teachers in project-based learning instruction.
  • More opportunities for students, teachers, and parents to interact with STEM professionals and learn about employers and career opportunities.
  • Outreach to females and underrepresented minorities that includes opportunities to meet role models and mentors who look like the students.
  • Mechanisms to facilitate connections between teachers and STEM professionals who wish to function as volunteer speakers and/or mentors.
  • Dual enrollment and other programs that provide support to students as they cross the bridge from high school to postsecondary institutions, so that they persist in education and STEM fields.

For more specific information on these practices, please see Appendix D.

Barriers to Effective Partnerships between Higher Education and Regional Employers

Initiating, developing, and sustaining partnerships between industry and higher education can be particularly difficult, given different missions, levels of resources, lack of common terminology, and other factors, even if both partners share a commitment to a stronger workforce.21 These cultural barriers between higher education and regional employers impede effective cross-sector partnerships. One impediment is that individuals and organizations in the two sectors often have different expectations of outcomes and definitions of success. While employers are focused on the size and quality of their “talent pipelines”—the pool of people who are prepared or are in the process of being trained to step into important roles in a company—colleges and universities often inadequately recognize their role in training those people, nor are these activities given high priority in faculty tenure evaluations or in annual performance reviews.

Second, some companies are more comfortable taking risks—or at the very least are accustomed to innovation as a way of life—as they endeavor to satisfy shareholders. In contrast, nonprofit institutions of higher education can be tradition bound and risk averse. An education manager at Intel described how the company values academic departments that have the ability to think big and the willingness to take on a project, not knowing where it will lead. One way that higher education can instill a more innovative mindset in its faculty and students is to encourage experimentation at the interface of research and product development. At the Los Angeles meeting, breakout session participants suggested that higher education should foster an environment in which failure is embraced as a learning opportunity. Participants in a breakout session in Cleveland also advocated that higher education “should allow itself—students and institutions—to fail. Pilot early, then modify and repeat.” Unfortunately, evaluations of faculty performance rarely accept failure with equanimity.

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20National Center for Education Statistics (2014). Profile of Undergraduate Students: 2011-12, Web Tables. U.S. Department of Education.

21Klawe, M. (2004). Getting the University-Industry Partnership Right … or Not. Washington, DC: The Futures Forum.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Third, following directly from these differences, businesses and higher education have distinct reward structures. Partnerships between the two can be inhibited when the individuals involved are asked to undertake activities that fall outside of those for which they are traditionally rewarded. Concerning higher education, a participant in Montgomery advocated for college and university leadership to free up faculty time in a targeted manner, specifically to allow them to explore and sustain relationships with industry. Participants in a breakout session in Cleveland suggested that sabbatical opportunities be reinstituted and expanded, so that STEM faculty can spend more time working in industry. Such flexibility in time commitments and the reward structure on campuses and in the workforce is rare, however; and efforts to build relationships between university faculty and business employees are often stymied by inflexible university policies and lack of recognition in the workplace. A participant in Fargo noted how he had withdrawn from his position as a business liaison to North Dakota State University because his supervisors did not recognize the value of that work.

Fortunately, there may be opportunities to change rules and procedures in ways that encourage such collaboration. Martin Abraham, the interim provost at Youngstown State University, commented that changes to the tenure and promotion process may need to come “one enlightened administrator at a time.” On the employer side, Don Morton, site leader at Microsoft Fargo, noted that “what you incentivize people about is what they do,” and described shifts in the company’s reward structure that place a high priority on collaboration by rewarding an employee for his or her coworkers’ success. The committee heard from a number of companies and institutions of higher education that appeared to be successfully shaping their reward structures to embrace cross-sector partnerships. More systematic study of these organizations’ practices would likely yield valuable additional insights.

Fourth, companies and higher education operate on relatively short and relatively longer time lines, respectively. Companies experience pressure to innovate increasingly rapidly, while higher education’s time line to create new courses or programs is often many months or years. This discrepancy creates a real obstacle for higher education institutions endeavoring to be responsive to local and regional STEM workforce needs. Participants in a breakout session in Fargo noted how the education sector has difficulty responding and adapting as quickly as industry needs it to in order to meet workforce demands. One participant in Phoenix contrasted “faculty cultures of tradition and intransigence” with rapidly changing industry schedules and challenges. As a participant in Montgomery said, “When a business reaches out to a university and asks for assistance, it is looking at its watch. When the university responds, it is looking at a calendar.”

Fifth, concerning intellectual property (IP), the barrier to effective partnerships stems from companies’ and higher education’s needs being, in this case, similar. Researchers and product developers in both sectors aim to retain the intellectual property resulting from their work. In addition, the academic reward structure pressures researchers to publish their results, which can be in conflict with industry’s goal of securing intellectual property rights and protecting proprietary information. Melvin Greer, senior fellow and chief strategist with Lockheed Martin, described the company’s definition of a successful relationship with a faculty member in terms of value measured as return on sales or return on investment, with a focus on the generation of intellectual property. He stated that “if you are not creating intellectual property [for the company], the relationship is not going to work.” The organizer of students’ capstone projects in computer science at North Dakota State University described how intellectual property issues make collaborations very challenging in their industry-university consortium. He related how several companies had told them, “we would love to work with you, but we need complete ownership of the IP,” which creates a barrier to the university working with industry at the faculty level. Participants in a breakout session in Phoenix acknowledged the significant amount of time that is often required for industry and higher education to agree on how intellectual property will be treated. The executive director of entrepreneurship and innovative initiatives at Arizona State University

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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spoke to how universities need to encourage entrepreneurship and learn how to handle intellectual property issues.22 On the workforce side, an employer at an aerospace company in Cleveland suggested that “businesses have to be more willing to say ‘I don’t care if you publish’ and be willing to give up some of that intellectual property,” in order not to place limitations on academic researchers’ ability to publish. In sum, as participants in a breakout session in Phoenix discussed, intellectual property protocols need to be developed that both parties consider fair.

PROMISING PRACTICES: CREATING SUCCESSFUL PARTNERSHIPS
BETWEEN EMPLOYERS AND HIGHER EDUCATION

Workshop participants offered a wealth of ideas for creating and sustaining effective partnerships that can increase the number of STEM-competent graduates who are both well trained relative to companies’ current needs and have the necessary flexibility of mindset and skills to function well in the regional workforce in the coming years. These promising practices are the topic of this section. Over the course of the committee’s five regional workshops, it learned that partnerships often start small and rely, in their early months or years, on connections between particularly passionate individuals. A workforce representative in Phoenix said, “It starts with relationships, it ends with relationships.… It’s about trusting relationships that are win-win, where we [all] get to act in our best self-interest.” The committee concluded that there would be value in a “self-assessment” tool that universities and employers—both individually and in collaboration with one another—might use to evaluate their current status in building a partnership, and in monitoring progress toward an effective, long-term relationship. This is discussed in more detail in Chapter 5.

The following section first describes the elements workshop participants identified as critical for the development of a rich and effective STEM workforce development ecosystem, including commitment from leaders, the role of third-party intermediary organizations, and industry consortia. It then offers specific strategies for building a strong STEM workforce development ecosystem, including the importance of achieving small, early successes; assigning a single point of contact for employers seeking to engage universities; engaging in specific collaborative activities; and offering applied learning opportunities such as internships and cooperative education programs. These strategies are discussed chronologically from the perspective of a university or company seeking to build a partnership. As noted below, there is a larger base of evidence for strategies described toward the end of this section—collaborative activities and applied learning opportunities.

Creation of a Rich Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem

Data and information needs. A major theme emerging from the five regional meetings was the need for both higher education and employers to recognize that they are constituent members of a regional STEM workforce development ecosystem. The committee heard participants explain

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22The challenges associated with IP management in the context of university-industry partnerships have been well characterized, and several prior reports have called on universities to improve their management of IP. These include calls for universities to improve their capabilities in technology transfer, in part by involving more stakeholders (including representatives of the relevant business, investment, and economic development communities) in the development of policies and practices for technology transfer and IP management. Other groups, including the University-Industry Demonstration Partnership have developed guidelines and best practices for universities seeking to improve and/or expand their IP management and technology transfer capabilities. For more information, see National Research Council (2011), Managing University Intellectual Property in the Public Interest, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; and National Research Council (2012), Research Universities and the Future of America, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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how partnerships need to be structured (and not ad hoc), data based, and oriented toward a region’s specific challenges. A first step can be a joint conversation among the business community, government, and higher education about current workforce needs and how the regional economy might be reenergized. A well-positioned and trusted third-party intermediary could convene this joint conversation as a first step toward developing alignments, an agenda, and a data-gathering plan for the collaborative effort. For many regions, more real-time jobs data will be required for a reliable assessment of workforce needs. Often, faculty and administrators in higher education lack a clear understanding of workforce demand and the skills students should possess to thrive in the workforce. Jobs and skills data will also benefit students, who often are unaware of the career opportunities in a region.

Participants in a breakout session in Cleveland discussed how metrics for success need to be developed and data on outcomes need to be collected. One participant in Fargo called for stronger data on workforce supply and demand. In that region, higher education’s understanding of the jobs available in the state is derived from the website of Job Service North Dakota, but those numbers are widely believed to be underestimates. The state longitudinal data system is currently being updated to make stronger supply-and-demand data available to employers, legislators, and institutions of higher education. Such data will quantitatively demonstrate a region’s competitive advantage around which effective partnerships can be designed, as illustrated, for example, by the National Science Foundation’s engineering research centers.23

A second step in strengthening a regional STEM workforce development ecosystem might be a joint discussion among sectors about how technology and innovation are drivers for change and growth. These first two steps can lead to the third: an exploration of how leaders in higher education, government, and business can collaborate to develop the human resources needed for the regional economy to grow.24 Third-party organizations can play a valuable role in this process, as they may be able to provide data and models and other resources and services. For example, the Arizona Commerce Authority’s workforce program uses a data-driven model of sector partnerships to ensure that it trains enough workers with the appropriate skills to meet regional workforce needs.

Partnerships need to be initiated before all of the optimal data have been gathered. As noted by Ed Castile, director of Alabama Industrial Development Training in the Alabama Department of Commerce, “Don’t be data rich and action poor. If you have data, act on it.”

Commitment from leadership. At all five regional workshops, multiple participants spoke of the need for leaders in both sectors to demonstrate commitment. Presidents, provosts, and deans in higher education and CEOs in the regional businesses need to make visible, substantive commitments to industry–higher education partnerships. These leaders provide resources (including building time for partnership work into employees’ schedules) and incentivize collaborative and mentorship activities. A key lesson learned from the five regional workshops was that individual entrepreneurship at the faculty, department, or school level often triggers the launch of new programs, policies, and strategies for employer engagement at colleges and universities, but those initiatives are unlikely to thrive and be sustained without strong and visible leadership from the top. Individuals in both sectors called for institutions of higher education as well as employers to create a position in their organization dedicated to supporting partnership activities. Many participants felt that this was one of the most critical features that can ensure effective and sustainable partnerships. It will be critical to use data and metrics to demonstrate to

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23See http://erc-assoc.org/. Last accessed on 4/9/2016.

24See Moretti, E. (2013), The New Geography of Jobs, Boston, New York: Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. See also Milken Institute (2013), A Matter of Degrees: The Effect of Educational Attainment on Regional Economic Prosperity; and Abel, J. R., and R. Deitz (2011), The Role of Colleges and Universities in Building Local Human Capital, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Current Issues in Economics and Finance 17, no 6.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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boards of directors and trustees that any financial resources devoted to creating and sustaining such positions are associated with a return on investment. See Box 4-4 for additional details on corporate approaches to workforce development.

Participants in a breakout session in Fargo noted the value of a memorandum of understanding that was developed by and circulated on campus that outlines mutual understanding of higher education and industry’s needs to support transparency in the partnership. This memorandum is regularly updated and specifically outlines feedback loops and communication channels that partners can use. The provost of North Dakota State University suggested that the administration can provide seed grants and can ask faculty and staff to create innovative programs, but she considered it her responsibility to make sure that those programs also create assessment and scalability plans so that three or four strong programs—and not dozens of one-off programs—are embedded and supported and become part of the culture of the institution. Consistent with prior studies of regional efforts to align educational and employer partners,25,26,27 the bulk of participant comments suggested that it is incumbent on leaders within both sectors to foster a culture of collaboration and partnership organized around shared goals of building a strong STEM ecosystem, centered on a workforce well equipped with the knowledge, skills, and abilities that contribute to a region’s economic competitiveness.

BOX 4-4 Corporate Approaches to Workforce Development

Institutions of higher education seeking to engage with businesses to form workforce development partnerships often face challenges in identifying and securing the opportunity to work with the right department or organization within the company. Historically, corporations have provided funding for and interacted with colleges and universities for a variety of objectives, ranging from pure philanthropy to research and development (R&D) to workforce recruitment. Funding to support each of these purposes comes from different organizations and budgets within the corporation, and which one dominates varies somewhat from company to company.

In the current era, when corporations are experiencing profound need to develop the future workforce—often with no additional funds available for that purpose, many are targeting corporate giving and different investment funds to support workforce development. Which account the money comes from determines the lens through which choices are made and projects are aligned. A grant received through a corporate responsibility office is likely to have a different focus—for example, emphasis on diversity and inclusion—than funding received from an R&D department—which is likely driving toward a more innovative and agile workforce. And, funding from a local business unit can be expected to have more immediate workforce hiring and/or community relations objectives than do investments determined by corporate strategic priorities.

Consciousness is growing that future workforce development is not the responsibility of human resources departments but rather a fundamental element of business strategy and operations which must be addressed and driven in the “C-suite.” Institutions of higher education need to be aware that while several entities within any large company have some role to play in these endeavors, it is critical to ascertain from the CEO who in the organization has cognizance of and the authority to make decisions on and provide funding for long-term workforce development as a matter of corporate business strategy.

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25Business-Higher Education Forum (2013). The National Higher Education and Workforce Initiative. Washington, DC.

26Couturier, L. K. (2014). STEM Regional Collaboratives: The Opportunity. Jobs for the Future.

27DeRenzis, B., and B. Wilson (2015). Skills in the States: Sector Partnership Policy. National Skills Coalition.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

Third-party organizations. Many contributions were made at the five regional meetings by representatives of third-party organizations and by employers and people in higher education who have benefited from the work of such organizations. These organizations include economic development authorities, workforce development organizations, and nonprofit entities dedicated to strengthening the workforce and the ability of higher education to produce strong graduates. Consistent with prior studies examining regional STEM workforce needs,28,29 workshop participants affirmed the critical importance of third-party intermediary organizations in facilitating regional workforce development ecosystems. Participants discussed the valuable work of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and Science Foundation Arizona; the Ohio Board of Regents and the Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Workforce Investment Board; the LA Regional STEM Hub and LA HI-TECH (a partnership between the chamber of commerce, community colleges, and high schools); Alabama Industrial Development and Training and the Economic Development Association of Alabama; and the North Dakota STEM Network, North Dakota Department of Commerce, and the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation in Fargo. These organizations play at least two essential roles in the STEM workforce development ecosystem.30 They can assist partners in overcoming some of the cultural barriers described above, and perhaps most importantly, they can often bring to scale small, but promising, collaborative activities and other promising strategies for strengthening connections between employers and universities. These organizations can also play a central role in encouraging employer and university partners to organize their efforts around real-time labor market information and their region’s occupational competitive advantage(s).31,32,33,34

Third-party intermediaries serve as neutral, anchor organizations to facilitate effective collaboration and progress among regional partners. A successful third-party intermediary will often adopt a servant leadership35 role and work quietly behind the scenes to support and lift up the work of the partners. A trusted, well-positioned, and effective intermediary will have the clout to bring the appropriate leaders to the table and the skills to provide cohesion, guidance, and facilitation for the collaborative. This role is essential in helping to promote and sustain comprehensive systems change. The functions of a strategic intermediary typically include convening leaders; connecting, brokering, or providing services to partner organizations; measuring effectiveness and ensuring quality and impact of efforts; and sustaining effective practices through advocacy and progressive policies. An intermediary that effectively performs these functions would strongly support the development of a STEM workforce development ecosystem.

The Ohio Aerospace Institute (OAI), the host of the Cleveland workshop, provides a good example of the role that third-party organizations can play in regional STEM workforce development. OAI positions itself as a broker among Ohio’s two aerospace-related federal research

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28Lee, J. A., et al. (2014). Cracking the Code on STEM: A People Strategy for the State of Nevada. Washington, DC: The Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.

29TIP Strategies (2015). Regional Workforce Study: Greater Fargo/Moorhead Region.

30Consistent with the critical role that third-party intermediary organizations play in building and sustaining effective university-employer partnerships, at least one National Science Foundation grant program, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, has award criteria that emphasize the presence of third-party partner(s) in regionally focused university-employer research partnerships.

31Couturier, L. K. (2014). STEM Regional Collaboratives: The Opportunity. Jobs for the Future.

32Rosenblum, I., and C. Spence. (2015). Success in Real-Time: Using Labor Market Information to Build Better Middle-Skill STEM Pathways. Jobs for the Future.

33Business-Higher Education Forum (2013). The National Higher Education and Workforce Initiative. Washington, DC.

34DeRenzis, B., and B. Wilson (2015). Skills in the States: Sector Partnership Policy. National Skills Coalition.

35Servant leadership, a term coined by Robert Greenleaf in his 1970 essay “The Servant as Leader” is conceptualized as a leader who shares power, putting the needs of others first and helping others develop and achieve performance goals.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

laboratories (NASA Glenn Research Center and the Air Force Research Laboratory), numerous aerospace and related companies with significant operational footprints in northeast Ohio (e.g., Parker Hannifin, Lockheed Martin, TimkenSteel, GE Aviation), and regional universities and community colleges (Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, Kent State University, the Ohio State University, the University of Akron, University of Cincinnati, University of Dayton, Youngstown State University, Cuyahoga Community College, and Lorain County Community College). By helping to connect industry, government, and institutions of higher education in the region, the OAI aims to leverage northeast Ohio’s competitive advantage in aerospace and help build and sustain effective workforce development partnerships. See Box 4-5 for an additional example of the key role intermediary organizations play in organizing and focusing regional STEM workforce development efforts.

Industry consortia. Participants at all five workshops discussed the value of companies’ coming together to form industry consortia. When employers shift from seeing themselves as competitors for a limited supply of labor to collaborators in building a workforce or talent pipeline, they can better identify the skills they need and pool their resources to obtain employees having these skills. Consortia can also help to ensure that small businesses’ needs are addressed, as small businesses are often less able to devote the time needed to initiate partnerships with higher education and less able to fund such initiatives. Furthermore, like third-party intermediary organizations, industry consortia can also enable the process of taking promising partnership efforts or activities to scale.

Energy utilities in Arizona have created one such consortium and are working as a group with higher education to train their future workforce (see Box 4-6). In North Dakota, a number of diesel companies were represented at the regional meeting, and these employees also spoke to the value of collaboration within an industry. They described how Butler Machinery, RDO, and General Equipment have partnered with local high schools and the North Dakota State College of Science to raise students’ awareness of career paths for diesel technicians, a position for which there is great demand. Other participants also strongly encouraged companies to form consortia, including the senior vice president of the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development at Arizona State University, the education manager at Intel Arizona, and the executive vice president of the Workforce and Economic Development Division at Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio. Box 4-7 provides an additional example of a sector-based approach to STEM workforce development.

BOX 4-5 Role of Intermediary Organizations in STEM Workforce
Development Ecosystems: Addressing Data Needs
a

The Business Leaders for Education (BLE), a task force of Greater Louisville, Inc., the region’s Chamber of Commerce, led a multiyear assessment of educational outcomes and promoted adoption of a bold aspiration goal of adding 55,000 additional degrees—40,000 baccalaureate degrees and 15,000 master’s degrees—to the region’s workforce in order to move them into the top tier of regions with their aspirational peers. The community united around the Greater Louisville Education Commitment, signed by 25 leaders, and created a new nonprofit, 55,000 Degrees, to serve as steward of this commitment. BLE identified areas of comparative advantage and the major firms in the sectors, including value-add logistics (UPS), food and beverage science (regional distillers and YUM), advanced manufacturing (GE appliances) and health and wellness (numerous research hospitals and a major health insurer). 55,000 Degrees focused on students in middle school and high school with the goal of increasing college enrollment and success, and Greater Louisville, Inc., with a grant from the Lumina Foundation, focused on adult learners—those with some college but no degree—to contribute to this goal and align workforce development with the needs of sectors to the region’s growth.

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a Business-Higher Education Forum (2012). National & Regional Workforce Solutions: New Industry–Higher Education Projects for the NexGen U.S. Workforce.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

BOX 4-6 Industry Consortia Approaches to Workforce Development: Arizona’s Get Into Energy Program

Workforce development needs have recently emerged as an important topic for the utility industry in Arizona, which is facing an imminent wave of retirements and attrition over the next few years. To address this issue, all Arizona utilities and Estrella Mountain, Chandler-Gilbert, Pima, Yavapai, and Northland Pioneer community colleges formed a partnership with the intent of identifying the industry’s future workforce needs and establishing programs to train new employees with the skills to fill gaps. Using workforce analytics, the collaborators identified a range of current industry skill requirements to be continually refined as the industry evolves in the coming years.

To meet the industry’s training needs, the consortium colleges adapted the Center for Energy Workforce Development’s Get Into Energy Program. As a result, each of the five colleges established associate degree and certificate pathways focused on specific career outcomes in Arizona’s energy industry. Program and curriculum development was offset by federal grant funding. The strength of the Get Into Energy project is committed employer engagement, in which partners are connected to students throughout the entire 1- or 2-year training programs. Employers vet and endorse the community college curriculum, which includes stackable credentials and competencies. The National Career Readiness Certificate is embedded into the model to ensure that graduates not only have sharp technical skills, but strong employability skills as well.

The Get Into Energy partnership is beneficial to the employer, college, and student. It bolsters industry confidence in the skills of their prospective employees and provides students with access to information about the energy industry, mentorship, and clear career pathways within their chosen program.

Specific Strategies for Building a Strong STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem

Participants in the five regional meetings offered a wealth of promising strategies that form a part of—or can lead to the formation of—structured, effective regional partnerships between industry and higher education. The strategies listed below are presented in a roughly chronological fashion, beginning with activities typically undertaken early in the formation of a partnership. Where the discussion moves into descriptions of a range of collaborative activities, these can be productively used in whatever order and combination is optimal for a given location. Applied and experiential learning opportunities, because of their prominence in discussions at the five regional meetings, are highlighted separately at the end, along with research supporting their effectiveness.

Small, early successes with broad potential for adoption. For incipient cross-sector partnerships, participants encouraged both universities and employers to seek early successes to create momentum and draw the attention of people in different roles in an organization.36 In Cleveland, Martin Abraham, interim provost of Youngstown State University, discussed a “partnership continuum,” key steps in a process of building industry–higher education relationships, in which individual-by-individual interactions form the basis of a growing, trusting relationship. Participants in a breakout session in Fargo cited the value of a grassroots champion who can spur the establishment of a partnership and help to create a culture of collaboration. And in Phoenix, a board member of the Science Foundation of Arizona discussed the value of a small group of people in a company who can work as ambassadors to a college or university to show some early successes. In encouraging academics to begin partnering in ways that are small and simple, she said, “You have to recognize that your industry partners don’t know how to do this.” While pilot programs and one-off initiatives cannot themselves constitute the basis of an effective, structured partnership, they play a valuable role in beginning the development of a region-wide effort.

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36Ideally, these small, early successes can be taken to scale via the efforts of third-party intermediary organizations and/or industry consortia, as described in the preceding section.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

BOX 4-7 Aerospace and Defense Industries:
A Sector-Wide Approach to STEM Education and Workforce Development

For nearly a decade, the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry has exerted leadership in fostering communication and collaboration among stakeholders in STEM education and workforce development. The National Academies’ publication of the Rising Above the Gathering Storm report focused attention on the central importance of endeavors to improve student interest and achievement in math and science. Aerospace and defense executives know that their industries are uniquely affected by inadequate performance and engagement of U.S. students in STEM subjects. Because many of their most important jobs require security clearances, these firms must be able to hire qualified Americans; they cannot fill those positions with foreign nationals or move the jobs overseas. Beyond their direct business interest to remain competitive globally, A&D leaders are motivated to address the formidable threat posed to the national security and economic well-being of the United States.

Noting their preeminent interest in the U.S. future STEM workforce, and recognizing that they cannot solve the A&D workforce challenge alone, aerospace and defense leaders declared their interest and intention to collaborate with all other concerned stakeholders—at the national, state, and local levels—to meet the challenge as stated by the Rising Above the Gathering Storm report.

To pursue these objectives, the CEOs constituting the Executive Committee of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) charged that organization with addressing the future workforce challenge. An ad hoc committee was established in 2006 to explore the issues, identify best practices, and provide recommendations on how to proceed. The following year a sister industry group, the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), formed a STEM Workforce Division. The AIA and NDIA committees have worked jointly since 2007 to drive communication, collaboration, and the formation of coalitions and public-private partnerships to develop the future STEM workforce.

Much of AIA and NDIA’s work has focused on convening stakeholders at the state and local levels. Originally planned as fact-finding sessions to learn more about what their member companies were doing in partnership with local groups, for the past 5 years these joint AIA/NDIA STEM forums have explicitly been designed to foster closer collaboration and the establishment or expansion of formal public-private partnerships to include state STEM networks.

Each STEM forum is planned and conducted by AIA and NDIA in partnership with one or more local organizations, such as a local NDIA chapter or other business group. The Ohio Aerospace Institute in Cleveland was the local organizer and host of an Ohio STEM Forum in 2014. Similarly, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce partnered with AIA/NDIA to convene a forum in 2013 at which they launched the Los Angeles Hub of the California STEM Learning Network.

Whereas AIA and NDIA’s workforce efforts at the outset focused heavily on K-12 classroom and afterschool programs, over time they expanded to include attention to higher education programs and, more recently, the skills gap in manufacturing and other technical workforces.

All of this work is based on collaboration with other key stakeholders. For instance, AIA and NDIA have worked in tandem with the Business-Higher Education Forum to advance regional workforce projects at the postsecondary level; with the Manufacturing Institute and other associations on the skills gap challenge; and with Battelle and STEMx to foster and grow state STEM networks in K-12 education.

AIA and NDIA’s experience has consistently demonstrated the power and value of bringing together all motivated stakeholders to scope the regional STEM education and workforce challenge, identify key next steps, and take responsibility for and commit to action.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

Single point of contact. Employers reported having difficulty navigating within higher education—both the physical campuses and the administrative structure. When they wish to connect with higher education, employers often have difficulty identifying an initial point of contact at the college or university—an issue emphasized by Jim Searcy, executive director of the Economic Development Association of Alabama; Stacey Breuer, director of human resources at Doosan Bobcat in Fargo; and senior officials at Arizona State University. Beyond the need for this initial contact, a number of workshop participants stressed (as mentioned above) the importance of an organization having one staff person dedicated to cross-sector partnerships and immediately replacing that person if he or she moves out of that role. The committee heard this message in discussion groups in Phoenix, from Francisco Rodriguez, chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District, and from Terri Sandu, executive director of workforce development and director of the Entrepreneurship Innovation Institute at the Lorain County Community College in Cleveland.

Institutions of higher education can designate and publicize a single point of contact from which companies’ inquiries can be directed to the appropriate divisions or departments in the college or university, as has been done at Arizona State University (see Box 4-8). Participants in breakout sessions in Phoenix cited the value for employers of this point of contact, and Jim Searcy, executive director of the Economic Development Association of Alabama, noted that this role could be played by administrators such as provosts and associate deans for research who have been charged with economic development. Within an academic department, the point of contact can be a career center staff member charged with connecting employers with students, as described by Paul Johnson, dean of the School of Engineering at Arizona State University.

Similarly, businesses can dedicate part or all of a position to collaborations with higher education. Chris Rico, director of innovation at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, suggested that large companies in the region, such as Hyperloop, SpaceX, Boeing, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Disney, should have at least one employee dedicated to working collaboratively with higher education on the design and adoption of curricula. In North Dakota, Doosan Bobcat has a full-time employee whose job it is to build relationships with universities in the upper Midwest. This person’s responsibilities include serving as the company’s point of contact for academic institutions and working with company colleagues to develop internship and mentoring opportunities. For this position to contribute most effectively to structured, region-wide partnerships, it is valuable for it to be established within the CEO’s office as a business development function, not in a company’s human resources division (as might seem logical).

BOX 4-8 Economic Development Strategies at Arizona State University

In an effort to further become socially embedded in the communities it serves, Arizona State University (ASU) developed SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center to drive economic development and corporate engagement. The center’s economic development team works to provide a point of contact to assist employers and industry representatives in navigating—both physically and administratively—around the university. The economic development team is charged with engaging regional and state economic development organizations, keeping up to date on the types of research being conducted at the university, and engaging with corporate partners to facilitate their relationship with the university. ASU also maintains a corporate engagement council that brings senior staff from various academic and administrative departments together on a quarterly basis to discuss emerging research areas that may garner corporate attention.

According to the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, “ASU’s sterling reputation when it comes to university-industry collaboration is a major attraction point for companies considering a move to or expansion in Arizona. ASU’s partnerships with the business community have fostered innovation, economic growth and the creation of high-quality jobs.”

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

Collaborative activities that contribute to successful partnerships. Participants at the five regional meetings spoke to the value of a range of initiatives inside and outside the classroom that can form the core of successful partnerships. These initiatives and activities offer valuable training for students as well as channels for regular, substantive communication between the sectors about workforce needs. This section describes the role of industry advisory boards; the value of larger convening activities; industry sponsorship of capstone projects; ways in which employees of local firms can be involved in courses and laboratory work; and physical spaces on campuses or in communities where students, faculty, and employers can engage in collaborative projects based on real-world problems.

Many academic schools and departments already have industry advisory boards, and these can play an important role in the regional STEM workforce development ecosystem if they are structured appropriately. The committee heard repeatedly that advisory boards usually need to be restructured if they are to function effectively as a collaborative space for the development and maintenance of partnerships (see Box 4-9).

Higher education can also sponsor larger-scale convening events that bring together broad swaths of a regional industry for intensive discussions about their workforce needs. One participant from North Dakota State College of Science suggested, as a way to raise the level of discussion between business and industry, that administrators bring an entire industry sector into one room to discuss their current and projected workforce needs. She worked to convene the college’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning program and industry leaders across North Dakota, and the result was a full meeting room with influential people discussing issues affecting the industry throughout the state. Effective advisory boards and larger, industry-wide events can help define regional workforce needs and determine the shape of the region-wide STEM ecosystem.

BOX 4-9 Revamped Advisory Boards

Industry advisory boards in higher education need to offer frequent opportunities of different types for companies to articulate their needs and to provide higher education with feedback about students’ skills and abilities. Advisory meetings also need to be a place where companies discuss, to the degree they are able, their future workforce needs. As noted by the vice president of academic and student affairs at North Dakota State College of Science, “Where do [companies] need to be? Not next year, but in 5 or 10 years?” The dean of technology and services at the North Dakota State College of Science advocated broadening this advisory function by bringing an entire industry sector into one room to discuss industry-wide needs.

Advisory boards can be a vehicle by which employers’ involvement in higher education can begin to be expanded. Participants in a breakout session in Los Angeles asserted that higher education does not ask enough of industry and advocated strengthening the boards by making them bidirectional and by engaging employers more directly in the design of programs and curricula. In the Alabama Community College System, when an academic program requests additional funding—for example, for updated equipment—it is required to have the endorsement of the relevant industry.

It is important that advisory boards include people in different roles in industry—participants in Fargo spoke to the need for some representatives to have decision-making power and for others to be recent graduates and midcareer employees.

Finally, participants urged continuity. The vice president for workforce development at the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation noted that if an industry representative is unable to attend meetings regularly, he or she needs to designate a replacement; while participants in a breakout session in Fargo suggested that if a representative leaves his or her position or the company, a successor should be named as quickly as possible. These practices help to ensure the ongoing participation of regional employers in those activities in higher education designed to support the local economy.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

Workshop participants described a number of ways, once employers’ needs are well defined, that employers and faculty or entire academic departments can work together to improve higher education’s ability to train graduates with the greatest likelihood of success in the regional workforce.

To help teach students the skills they will need in the workplace, companies can sponsor capstone or other student projects that focus on solving real-world problems facing society. Arizona State University’s Innovation Challenge Program is one such program that brings together students from diverse disciplines to work together to solve a challenge, pressing them to think beyond the most immediate solution. Each year a company poses a major challenge—in 2015, Verizon created the Smart Cities Challenge—and any team of students from any majors can attempt to solve it. The executive director of entrepreneurship and innovative initiatives at Arizona State University also described the university’s iProjects, a program that pairs student teams and faculty mentors with industry partners to work on real-world challenges faced by the company. Some recent projects attempted to make packaging more sustainable, enable pet groomers to use less water, and create a device to improve the running ability of soldiers. The program allows students to apply knowledge gained in the classroom on a practical problem, while familiarizing them with the company’s operation and culture and allows industry partners to evaluate the students as potential employees. The iProjects experience can be replicated anywhere there are willing faculty and industry mentors and partners.

Employees at regional companies can also be involved in classrooms and labs, serving as adjunct faculty or giving individual class lectures where appropriate, or companies can donate state-of-the-art equipment to enhance student learning. Don Morton, site leader at Microsoft Fargo, described how engineers at Microsoft, for example, have begun teaching computer science in high school classrooms, either supplementing existing classes or teaching the class themselves where there is a need. Likewise, it is important for college and university faculty to have a solid understanding of industry workplaces, to become more familiar with the environments in which their students will be employed. Workshop participants suggested several specific types of activities in this regard. Industry can organize site visits designed to increase faculty and administrators’ knowledge of regional companies: Beth Ingram, provost of North Dakota State University, described the value of organized faculty visits to industry as a way to help faculty learn about what a company does, who it hires, and how industrial processes work. Companies can offer faculty fellowships or design exchange programs, giving faculty the opportunity to spend a more extended time in the workforce, gaining skills or undertaking collaborative research. For example, M. Javed Khan, head of the Aerospace Science Engineering Department at Tuskegee University, spoke highly of Boeing’s faculty fellowship program, which had previously funded faculty to spend time in industry settings during the summer months so that they may stay apprised of industry’s needs.

For skills widely in demand in the regional workforce, companies can assist colleges and universities in overall curriculum design that increases the value and usefulness of the skills graduates take with them into the regional economy. 37 Arizona State University partnered with Intel and Motorola in an effort to equip students with new skills needed by a planned corporate expansion, and the university proposed that the two companies fund short-term faculty research projects to familiarize faculty with industry problems and give them experience with short-term, outcomes-focused research. These experiences enabled faculty to align curricula more closely with current and projected problems facing the two companies. Similarly, the head of the Aerospace Science Engineering Department at Tuskegee University described Design, Build, and Fly, a two-semester program bringing together students at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Purdue University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and Brigham Young University. The

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37Firms like Jobs for the Future, Burning Glass, The Conference Board, Help Wanted OnLine, Geographic Solutions, and others have methodologies that can help educators analyze curriculum and course offerings based on employers workforce needs.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

program implements the latest approaches employed by the industry and gives students the social skills for working in virtual, multidisciplinary teams.

Numerous workshop participants discussed the importance of involving employers in shaping curricula at colleges and universities. While the committee believes there is great value in such efforts, there are also risks. It is important that institutions of higher education (and, for that matter, their business partners) develop strong conflict-of-interest policies—and ensure that they are followed. Both partners must ensure that the sole or primary interests being advanced from a company’s direct intervention in an institution’s curricula and programs are those of the students and the institution—not the profits and long-term market prospects of the company.

Workshop participants raised the importance of physical spaces on campuses or in the community where students, faculty, and employers undertake collaborative, real-world projects. In Cleveland, Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic are creating the think[box] Center, a 50,000-square-foot facility where a wide range of people, including students and faculty from Case Western and community colleges, members of the community, and people from the medical community and wider business community, can gather and experiment. The center emphasizes cross-disciplinary and cross-sector collaborations that endeavor to solve real-world problems. Students benefit from interacting with future employers and engaging in project-based learning and entrepreneurial thinking—experiences that will serve them well in northeast Ohio’s high-tech workforce. In North Dakota, Doosan Bobcat recently opened its own collaborative space, an “acceleration center” where employees from many fields work together to develop new products (see Box 4-10). The company’s experience highlights the way in which such spaces can also be used to train new employees in general technical skills and innovative thinking.

Applied and experiential learning opportunities. A unifying message heard at all five regional workshops was the importance of experiential learning. Project-based, team-based activities in the classroom and internships and cooperative arrangements play central roles in both retaining students in STEM fields and meeting a region’s workforce needs. Applied learning activities have been shown to increase student learning of both technical and employability skills.

Consistent with prior research and efforts to understand the dynamics of regional STEM workforce development ecosystems, 38,39 meeting participants discussed course redesign as a way to increase student learning and the numbers of students in STEM courses. The design of courses—especially first-year, or “gateway,” courses—has a profound effect on student learning and engagement as well as the likelihood that they will continue in the field of study. Research studies have shown that project-based formats in STEM courses, as opposed to lecture-based classes, engage students’ attention, increase learning, and increase retention, particularly of women and minority students.40,41 Participants at the regional meetings described a number of efforts to carry out such course redesign (see Box 4-11.)

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38President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (2012). Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President.

39Business-Higher Education Forum (2013). The National Higher Education and Workforce Initiative. Washington, DC.

40For a comprehensive review of such studies, see President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (2012). Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President.

41National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2016). Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Diverse Student Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

BOX 4-10 Doosan Bobcat’s Acceleration Center

Bobcat Company and Doosan’s new product development in North America takes place in the company’s Acceleration Center in Bismarck, North Dakota. The $28 million, 190,000-square-foot innovation center opened in 2014 and includes offices, laboratories, classrooms, and space for product demonstrations. Working in the center are 175 employees who use computer simulation to test concepts, do initial product design, and engineer and manufacture prototypes.

The Bismarck location’s human resources manager noted how they realized early in the process of designing the facility to foster creativity and innovation that they needed to give employees permission to be creative: “We went into it thinking we were designing a facility, and we realized we were designing a culture.” New employees—recent graduates holding engineering degrees—were accustomed to following directions to arrive at a predetermined conclusion. But the demands of the marketplace require a more creative approach, and Doosan Bobcat came to see that it needed to explicitly encourage employees to work differently, to think “outside of the box.”

The Acceleration Center also plays an important role in the company’s efforts to reach out to K-12 students. Doosan Bobcat recently participated in “Introduce A Girl to Engineering Day,” inviting 50 sixth- and seventh-grade girls to the Acceleration Center for a day of meeting professional engineers and doing problem-solving activities. The program’s success in capturing the girls’ attention and increasing their interest in engineering has led the company to expand its STEM efforts in all locations and include children of other critical ages.

Internships and cooperative education programs outside of the classroom expose students to career opportunities, mentors, and role models; allow them to develop and apply technical and employability skills; and provide them with experiential, project-based learning opportunities. Pedagogical approaches that transcend disciplinary silos and embed a STEM subject in real-world challenges more closely reflect the environment that students will experience after they leave higher education. Project-based, multidisciplinary learning also fosters in students an “innovative” mindset that can be valuable in the workforce. Consistent with research that has demonstrated that applied learning experiences and internships decrease attrition rates among STEM students,42,43,44 and conclusions from prior efforts to understand the factors that strengthen STEM workforce development,45,46 a number of participants at the regional workshops emphasized the value of applied and experiential learning beginning early in a student’s course of study and continuing throughout.

In addition to allowing employers to assess whether a given individual is a good match for the company’s culture and mission, internships and cooperative education programs constitute a valuable communication channel between faculty and industry, contributing to effective feed-

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42Business-Higher Education Forum (2013). The U.S. STEM Undergraduate Model: Applying System Dynamics to Help Meet President Obama’s Goals for One Million STEM Graduates and the U.S. Navy’s Civilian STEM Workforce Needs. Washington, DC.

43Business-Higher Education Forum (2013). The National Higher Education and Workforce Initiative. Washington, DC.

44Jaeger, A. J., M. K. Eagan, and L. G. Wirt (2008). Retaining Students in Science, Math, and Engineering Majors: Rediscovering Cooperative Education. Journal of Cooperative Education and Internships 42(1):20–31.

45Lee, J. A., et al. (2014). Cracking the Code on STEM: A People Strategy for the State of Nevada. Washington, DC: The Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.

46TIP Strategies (2015). Regional Workforce Study: Greater Fargo/Moorhead Region.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

BOX 4-11 Applied Learning Opportunities and Support Services for STEM Students

First-Year Undergraduate STEM Experience (FUSE) at California State University, Dominguez Hills

California State Dominguez Hills is employing several interventions that are demonstrated to increase student success in STEM fields.a FUSE, begun in 2015, provides incoming students with immersive educational experiences beginning the summer before college and continuing throughout their first year on campus. Students begin with a summer bridge course designed to prepare them for their college-level STEM courses. The program uses peer mentors, emphasizes learning communities, and employs active learning in first-year, or “gateway,” courses to provide students with support both in and outside of the classroom.

EdPlus at Arizona State University (ASU)

ASU has begun redesigning its gateway courses in STEM—“service courses” that prepare large numbers of students to continue into a great variety of STEM majors. The redesign shifts their function from one of so-called weeding out all except for A-plus students to providing a place where all strong students are welcome and experience an environment designed to engage them in real-world STEM problems and help them excel.

The ASU redesign has emphasized the “flipped classroom” model of instruction. In a flipped classroom, the transfer of knowledge (lectures and background reading) occurs outside of the classroom, while the application of that knowledge (problem sets, active questioning, and facilitated discussion) occur during class time. In such a redesign for a freshman math or physics course, lectures are posted online for students to view before coming to class. Class time is then devoted to students working in small groups on applied problem solving facilitated by instructors.

Adaptive learning platforms employ technology to engage students in interactive learning—computers are used to adapt the presentation of material according to the learning needs of students as indicated by their performance on learning assessments.

When a first-year ASU physics course employed a flipped classroom and adaptive learning platform, the percentage of students earning a grade of C or higher rose from about half to almost 90 percent.

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a Association of American Colleges and Universities (2012). Ramping Up for STEM Success: Pathways for Student Transfer; and President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (2012). Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President. See also National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2016), Barriers and Opportunities for 2-Year and 4-Year STEM Degrees: Systemic Change to Support Diverse Student Pathways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

back loops that benefit both partners.47,48 Meeting participants emphasized the importance of interns being given meaningful work and suggested that internships be structured to allow students an opportunity to make meaningful contributions to the company’s mission. Martin Abraham, interim provost of Youngstown State University, described how the university created an

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47Malsberry, S. (2014). The Relationship of Skilled Aerospace Manufacturing Workforce Performance to Training. Ph.D. dissertation. Walden University, Minneapolis, MN.

48Packard, B. W. (2011). Effective Outreach, Recruitment, and Mentoring into STEM Pathways: Strengthening Partnerships with Community Colleges. In National Research Council (2012), Community Colleges in the Evolving STEM Education Landscape: Summary of a Summit. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

Office of Professional Practice in the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics specifically to oversee internships because of the critical role they play in the education of students in STEM. Ed Castile, director of Alabama Industrial Development Training in the Alabama Department of Commerce, described a mechatronics partnership between Shelton State Community College and Mercedes-Benz as an “apprenticeship on steroids.” This program has placed more than 200 students in internships at the Mercedes facility in Tuscaloosa. Students can enter the program immediately after high school or from Shelton State, and they spend 2 years at the Mercedes facility applying their mechatronics skills and knowledge. In Fargo, Wayde Sick, director of the Workforce Division of the North Dakota Department of Commerce, described the division’s Operation Intern program, which aims to assist employers in building an internship program and to encourage interns to remain in the regional workforce. In this matching internship program, employers apply for funds to support an intern, and the division matches them 50/50, up to $3,000 per employer.

Participants noted that internships and formal mentorships, when done well, are time-intensive for students’ mentors in both sectors, and can be especially difficult for small businesses or entrepreneurial start-ups. Individuals in industry as well as higher education have explored a number of alternative formats to the traditional internship experience that attempt to capture the benefits for all parties while demanding less time and fewer resources of mentors, to make this mechanism more sustainable over time and able to serve much larger numbers of students. Participants’ suggestions included weekly, off-site sessions where students, faculty, and employees gather to discuss companies’ needs and culture (a collaboration between Intel, Arizona State University, and regional community colleges); single-day student visits to companies (Ventana Medical Systems’ afternoon session with women bioscientists and engineers in Phoenix); and student visits to companies 1 day per week.

State and Local Policies to Support Workforce Development Partnerships

Efforts by institutions of higher education and regional employers take place in a policy environment that can support or hinder the two sectors’ efforts to strengthen the regional workforce. Governments can play an important role through policies that prioritize STEM education and increase the ease with which institutions of higher education and K-12 education can meet students’ needs and workforce needs. Workshop participants from both sectors discussed several policies that can be implemented by state or local governments to expand educational and career pathways and better meet regional STEM workforce needs. First, economic development strategic plans having STEM as a priority can be beneficial to efforts under way in both sectors. In 2008, Alabama created its first statewide strategic plan, identifying STEM as a priority and bringing together K-12 education, the 2-year and 4-year systems of higher education, chambers of commerce, members of business and industry, and communities across the state. The visibility of this priority can prompt the involvement of a wider range of individuals and organizations in strengthening the STEM-related workforce.

Policies allowing for dual enrollment, where high school students are able to take classes for college credit, may be useful for attracting and retaining students in STEM majors and eventually STEM careers. Studies in Florida, California, and New York City demonstrated that students participating in dual-enrollment programs had higher rates of college enrollment and persistence and higher college grade point averages.49 Although most dual-enrollment studies have not focused specifically on STEM students and majors, increasing numbers of community col-

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49Community College Research Center (2012). What We Know About Dual Enrollment. Research Overview, Columbia University.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
×

lege Career and Technical Education (CTE)50 programs are offering dual-enrollment options. Research on these CTE dual-enrollment programs has demonstrated a positive correlation between dual enrollment and greater college persistence.51 At the time of the regional meeting in Los Angeles, a bill was going through the California assembly—Concurrent Dual Enrollment Assembly Bill 288—that would allow high school students to enroll in community college classes free of charge, and this law was passed in October 2015.

Stackable credentials are degrees, certificates, diplomas, licenses, or other credentials that can be accumulated by an individual over time as he or she moves along an educational and career pathway with multiple entry and exit points. Stackable credentials can fulfill a wide range of students’ needs for training according to current opportunities in the regional workforce. Gary Cates, senior vice chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents—a coordinating agency working with colleges and universities, state and career technical education centers, and a program for adult basic literacy education—described the current high degree of collaboration among institutions of higher education and the board’s goal of creating a seamless portfolio across Ohio. The goal is the creation of an educational network where a person can enter through any institution and complete his or her education anywhere in the system with all credits transferring. Gene Dudley, director of career and technical education in the Alabama Community College System, noted how most of the colleges’ work involves stackable certificates and credentials, a structure particularly beneficial for first-time college attendees.

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50CTE is a program of the Office of Career and Technical Education at the U.S. Department of Education. CTE programs can be found at high schools, community and technical colleges, and 4-year universities and prepare students for a range of high-skilled and technical careers, many with clear links to traditional STEM disciplines.

51Karp, M. M., et al. (2007). The Postsecondary Achievement of Participants in Dual Enrollment: An Analysis of Student Outcomes in Two States. National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Minnesota.

Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Lessons Learned and Analysis." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21894.
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U.S. strength in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines has formed the basis of innovations, technologies, and industries that have spurred the nation’s economic growth throughout the last 150 years. Universities are essential to the creation and transfer of new knowledge that drives innovation. This knowledge moves out of the university and into broader society in several ways – through highly skilled graduates (i.e. human capital); academic publications; and the creation of new products, industries, and companies via the commercialization of scientific breakthroughs. Despite this, our understanding of how universities receive, interpret, and respond to industry signaling demands for STEM-trained workers is far from complete.

Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem reviews the extent to which universities and employers in five metropolitan communities (Phoenix, Arizona; Cleveland, Ohio; Montgomery, Alabama; Los Angeles, California; and Fargo, North Dakota) collaborate successfully to align curricula, labs, and other undergraduate educational experiences with current and prospective regional STEM workforce needs. This report focuses on how to create the kind of university-industry collaboration that promotes higher quality college and university course offerings, lab activities, applied learning experiences, work-based learning programs, and other activities that enable students to acquire knowledge, skills, and attributes they need to be successful in the STEM workforce. The recommendations and findings presented will be most relevant to educators, policy makers, and industry leaders.

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