Education Coalition Taking Big Steps

Once again, area businesses are putting their money where their mouth is.

The Cummins Foundation recently presented the Chautauqua County STEM Coalition with two grants totaling about $235,000 to hire Dr. Paul Beeson as the Chautauqua County STEM education coordinator and create a countywide program focusing on the benefits of science, technology, engineering and math education. The program is an offshoot of the Dream It, Do It program started by the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier.

It will take time to see the result of such investments, but the goal is to produce graduates who are able to step into the advanced manufacturing jobs that will be open in Chautuaqua County. It is a proactive step by county businesses, which have long lamented the lack of qualified applicants for several types of jobs they often have open.

One reason is the jobs require science and math skills, courses too few students have been taking even as demand exploded for those with math and science skills. It can be extraordinarily difficult for the average high school student to see abstract math and science lessons on a blackboard or in a high school laboratory and see how that day’s lesson will apply to life after high school. The Chautauqua County STEM Coalition aims to change that thinking.

The coalition – an offshoot of the original Dream It. Do It. program – is already in direct connection to the Jamestown Public Schools system. Coalition meetings are an opportunity for education officials and business officials to share ideas, discuss the effectiveness of what is being taught and flesh out ways the school district can tweak its curriculum to train students who can fill the needs of area employers. High school courses dovetail with courses at Jamestown Community College and the Manufacturing Technology Institute to prepare students for jobs that require more education.

The Dream It, Do It program also connects high school students with area employers so students can see firsthand the types of manufacturing jobs that are available after graduation from high school or college.

Of course, there are 18 school districts in the area – which is why the coalition is working to expand its offerings throughout the region. The Cummins grants will help bring the STEM message to students throughout the county, a worthy investment by the area’s largest manufacturer in the region’s future workforce.

It may be some time yet before area employers see dividends from the focus on STEM education because there is so much to be done, from tweaking courses to buying the appropriate textbooks and getting these high school graduates through the college courses they need. Area schools, foundations and businesses are taking a solid step forward in creating the STEM Education Coalition.