STEM education-industry collaboration a model to look to

Yesterday, Governor LePage and I celebrated our nationally competitive robotics teams and students who have received recognition at the national level for their accomplishments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – known as STEM.

Maine should be proud of these innovative student leaders who received the Governor’s Promising STEM Awards. Robotics teams from schools in Auburn, Brewer, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Mount Desert Island and Oakland were honored, as were Maine’s delegates to the 2013 National Youth Science Camp (Ryanne Daily – Dirigo High School and Kelsey Burke – John Bapst Memorial High School); the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Mary Butler – Bangor High School,  and Meagan Currie and Harry Pershing – Greely High School); and the National Stockholm Junior Water Prize (Nathan Dee – Bangor High School).

Joining us at the State House ceremony were representatives from businesses including Pratt & Whitney, Jackson Labs and Mid-State Machine Products as well as the Manufacturers Association of Maine. They fund STEM skill development because they see the future of their companies is in Maine, but they need a workforce prepared for the high-tech jobs they often have open and pay well for. In the next decade, it is estimated one in seven new Maine jobs will be STEM-related and the wages associated with the jobs in these areas are 58 percent higher than wages for other Maine occupations.

As Governor LePage told the students, “Today, it’s your education, but tomorrow, it’s your job.”

The presence of these Maine businesses was one of the most exciting things about the event yesterday. Our schools are dealing with more and more each day, yet across Maine, there are businesses looking to partner with our schools, sharing knowledge about their work and providing our students with a glimpse at life beyond high school. Schools all over our state have formed terrific partnerships with area businesses, and working together, they are creating new opportunities for students to learn and grow.

An example of the collaboration between education and industry is Project Login, launched recently by Educate Maine with the UMaine System and businesses like IDEXX Laboratories, WEX and TD Bank with the goal of doubling the number of Maine graduates in computer science, computer engineering, and information technology in the next four years. Their efforts will be complemented by our own to implement the Next Generation Science Standards that Maine has been a leader in developing.

Maine  is doing great work in STEM education, and there are also tremendous opportunities  in our state for STEM careers. For us to truly make good things happen for kids, we need to bring our STEM educators and our STEM employers together. That is what the Governor and I saw yesterday with these students, the educators who work with them and the businesses that support them, and that is what we’re increasingly, and excitingly seeing in schools across Maine in STEM and subject areas beyond.