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Full STEAM Ahead: Driving Talent Development and Economic Growth Through Education

Monday, January 9, 2017  
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Business leaders, educators and economic development experts agree on the need to better prepare students to meet the needs of a modern workforce that requires critical thinking and problem solving skills. The jobs that will be available in the years to come will demand students with higher levels of education in science, technology, engineering, arts and math, also known as STEAM.

Teach. Talent. Thrive. (T3) is a major private sector led initiative to promote the growth of STEAM education in the Greater Lansing region. The goal of the group is to transform our region into the exemplary STEAM region in the country. Its mission is to establish a community committed to lifelong learning, led by business and community stakeholders, to ensure regional prosperity in the ever-changing new economy.

“We will teach more students and adults STEAM related studies and skills. This work will develop the talent we need so that our community will thrive and prosper,” said Stan Kogut former superintendent of the Ingham Intermediate School District and executive director of T3.

T3 is an outgrowth of the decadeold Keep Learning initiative which increased awareness of the critical need for STEM/STEAM education as a means of preparing students to fill jobs in the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century. T3 was created in large part to encourage expanded private sector leadership in STEAM. Those involved say that shift gives a greater voice to those providing the jobs of the future and how the talent filling those jobs is being prepared to succeed in the workforce.

“The biggest challenge to business in Michigan is talent,” said Chris Holman, CEO of the Michigan Business Network and co-chair of T3. “We are at a critical point where we are saying we can’t sustain growth if we can’t develop the talent.”

“STEAM is very important to the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce (LRCC) and to the overall business community because of the needs of the current workforce and the anticipated needs of the future,” said Kristin Beltzer, LRCC executive vice president and member of the T3 committee. “Our 21st century economy requires skills that many current graduates may not adequately possess. More in-depth understanding of math, science, technology and engineering applications will give students the tools to integrate and apply knowledge that will create solutions for real-world problems.”


The number of STEAM jobs in the U.S. is expected to grow by 14 percent by 2020. Though not all STEAM jobs require a bachelor’s degree, 95 percent of workers in STEAM fields have postsecondary education and training. By comparison, only 29 percent of adults in the Lansing region have a bachelor’s degree. It is also essential to increase high school graduation rates, which, currently stands at just 79 percent.

“Seventy-nine percent is good, but we can’t afford 21 percent not graduating,” said Holman. “If you want to commit to prosperity in the region, you must have a more creative, critical thinking population.”

The private sector has made a strong effort in recent years to partner with K-12 and Intermediate School Districts. High School students are being exposed to career jobs in the insurance industry through partnerships between Farm Bureau Insurance and the Eaton County Regional Education Service Agency. A similar partnership was created a year ago between AF Group and the Ingham ISD. Bekum America in Williamston has a long-established apprentice program to promote advanced manufacturing. Sparrow Health System engages with the Ingham ISD on the Capital Area Healthcare Education Partnership. MSU Federal Credit Union and Jackson National Life have partnered with Michigan State University in training students in financial services, technology and insurance.

Involvement in STEAM education has been growing in the region, most notably at the secondary and post-secondary level, however Kogut says what is needed next is to “drive it down further.”

“We have more students than ever before attending career centers,” said Kogut. “Lansing has a STEM magnet school for fourth through seventh grades, but we need more of that type of thing at the lower grade levels.”

T3 also intends to support programs that give students opportunities to develop STEAM skills such as the Capital Area Manufacturing Council, Manufacturing Day, Wharton Center’s Disney Musical in Schools, Teen Engineering Experience at MSU, Capital AREA IT Council, Tech Tours and Impression 5 Science Center’s Summer L.A.B.S. in which children challenged their understanding of science through experimentation and fun projects.

“Students that visit Impression 5 are really experimenting in STEM and STEAM with what they want to do the rest of their lives,” said Impression 5 executive director Erik Larson. “When they are here, children are given the opportunity to think at their own pace, to explore and to take the risks that are necessary to do that.”

Educating parents and supporting student’s STEAM and career exploration in and out of the classroom will play a crucial role in transforming Greater Lansing into a leading STEAM region. A STEM Perceptions report from Microsoft Corporation shows that only 51 percent of parents say STEAM should be a priority to produce the next generation of innovators. Only 37 percent of STEAM college students have a parent in STEAM. Going forward, it is important to help create an environment where parents are encouraging their children to embrace and succeed in STEAM education.

“Getting the message out to young people and adults is most important,” said Hatter-Williams. “We need to make sure every resident of the region understands the importance of STEAM and what it means to the future prosperity of our community.”

“We all have to start singing out of the same hymnal,’ said Kogut.

In addition to the media campaign, Kogut says next steps for the T3 group will be to identify barriers to success and develop strategies to remove those obstacles. The group has invited the public and private sectors to the table, including a business council made up of private sector CEOs to help lead the charge. T3 will seek to increase high quality talent available for openings in four focus areas: health care, insurance and finance, advance manufacturing and emerging technologies. T3 partners will be working to determine a specific direction and influence how public resource dollars are spent to drive talent development and economic growth.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring the region together to be unified in moving our talent forward and building upon STEAM concepts,” said Beltzer. “In Michigan, we pride ourselves on building things. Our next step is to build on the creativity and innovation of every single student so they can make an impact in Michigan and the world.”

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