Gateway Launches Expanded STEM Outreach to Students, Parents, Educators

Gateway Community and Technical College will launch a broader-than-ever STEM outreach initiative to students, parents and educators beginning Sept. 19.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. Gateways STEM initiative is designed to raise awareness among students, parents and educators of local career opportunities in STEM fields, particularly advanced manufacturing.

Unfortunately, the public often perceives manufacturing as dirty, dangerous and dead-end. Nothing could be further from the truth, said Gateway President/CEO Ed Hughes. The Gateway STEM experience will give students, their parents and their teachers a chance to interact with manufacturers and tour manufacturing facilities for an up-close look at what today's advanced manufacturing careers are really like, Hughes added.

The STEM outreach program was developed by Gateway in collaboration with Northern Kentucky public school administrators and members of the regions manufacturing community. The Cincinnati STEM Collaborative assists with funding.

STEM Days are very helpful for our students, educators and parents, said Teri Brown, director of College and Career Readiness for Kenton County Schools and a member of the STEM Days development team. So often, when students pursue a four-year degree, they begin the process unaware of opportunities available to them and how to capitalize on them. That can cost them unnecessary expense and waste their time.

The STEM Days give students a chance to learn about challenging, fun, good-paying careers right here in our area, she added. It helps them understand the options available to them to get a technical education, maybe even find a job that can finance their education, and then after they complete a credential at Gateway, move up the career ladder. They learn advanced manufacturing offers them a career, not just a job.

I hear from our teachers who have participated in STEM Days how much they have learned that they didn't know before, Brown said. Educators and parents need the information as much as our students.

That is why the 2014-15 STEM event calendar includes 12 STEM Days for students, four STEM evenings for parents and a daylong professional development STEM experience for educators.

This is the third year for the program, said Carissa Schutzman, Gateway dean of Workforce Solutions, which oversees the STEM outreach. The first year attracted about 300 students from 13 schools; last year 600 students from 18 schools visited Gateway and a manufacturing facility as part of the program.

Based on the growing interest and the very positive feedback we have had from students, we are expanding the outreach to include after-work STEM experiences for parents and professional development for teachers, Schutzman said.

STEM Days bring groups of middle and high school students to Gateways Boone Campus for a half-day tour of the colleges Center for Advanced Manufacturing and a chance to participate in hands-on activities and hear about training available for six manufacturing disciplines. Then its off to a manufacturing facility to see the real-world in action.

Companies that have sponsored a STEM Day experience feature major names from around the region and the globe. They include Celanese, Ellison Surface Technologies, Emerson Industrial Automation, Fives Cincinnati, HAHN Automation, Johnson Controls, Mazak, Messier-Bugatti-Dowty, Mubea, ZF Steering and Zumbiel Packaging.

Other companies, such as Gallatin Steel, and entities like Partners for a Competitive Workforce participate in monthly meetings with Gateway and public school administrators to collaborate on the STEM recruiting initiative.

The collaboration between Gateway and the manufacturing community has made the student STEM Days a huge success in educating high school students to a variety of careers in the advanced manufacturing world, said Mike Vogt, vice president of Human Resources and General Affairs for Mazak USA. Mazak is a consistent participant in the program and provides student tours.

The students love the manufacturing tours, adds Michelle Flick, Gateways workforce transitions coordinator who also coordinates STEM Days, because they get a chance to hear from actual workers about what its like to work in a high-tech, clean, modern manufacturing environment. The students leave with a new understanding of a career option they may never have considered before.

Feedback from anonymous student evaluation surveys supports this conclusion. Touring the factory was great, wrote a Gallatin County High School participant. I got to learn about career opportunities I didn't know about before. The analysis of a Simon Kenton High School student is telling: You changed my thoughts on manufacturing as a career.

Thats the point, said President Hughes. As Northern Kentuckys only public, two-year, comprehensive community and technical college, we offer career and transfer education in advanced manufacturing, as well as other high-wage, high-demand business sectors, as part of our statutory mandate to provide workforce education and training. Yes, we want students to attend Gateway. More than that, we want students and parents to better understand the career opportunities our region has to offer.

The 2014-15 STEM Day schedule starts Sept. 19 and continues through the beginning of May on two Fridays of every month except December and January. The new parent-student events are scheduled from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19, Dec. 3, March 11 and March 25. The educator professional development day is set for Oct. 22.

For more information on STEM Days and advanced manufacturing as a career, contact michelle.flick@kctcs.eduor call her at 859-815-7687.