A major Connecticut manufacturer recently teamed with a Naugatuck Valley middle school for a program that encourages girls to pursue STEM careers.
The partnership between Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company, and Ansonia Middle School resulted in a two-day virtual Women In Engineering event involving about 100 female students.
“We feel it is important to encourage young women to enter STEM fields because we want to help break down gender stereotypes,” said Sikorsky's Kate Rowland. “There are many great opportunities for employment here, whether male or female.
“STEM is definitely the future of work, and encourages young people to be problem solvers and change the world.”
On the second day of the virtual event, middle school students built a cardboard airplane under the direction of volunteers from the Stratford-based aerospace manufacturer.
“I believe that allowing students to apply math and science by ‘doing’ leaves a longer lasting impression than something they will see in a book,” said John LoRovera, director of math and science for Ansonia Public Schools.
News Channel 8 covered the event, helping LoRovera spread the word about the benefits of a STEM education.
“The WTNH segment—What's Right with Schools—was a wonderful first step to show the community the wonderful things we are doing at Ansonia Public Schools,” LoRovera said. “Being able to successfully convey the message to families is a challenge for sure.
“But as we continue to grow these partnerships and showcase them to the community, it will go a long way in getting stakeholders to realize that these jobs can become a reality for our students.”
Thanks to technological advances, students who pursue a manufacturing career will find themselves in a well-paying, intellectually challenging position in a clean environment.
The Ansonia School District has made a commitment in recent years to raise STEM awareness among their students, starting their partnership with Sikorsky by enrolling high school students in the manufacturer's Career Pathways program.
“We needed to find a way to give the students the manufacturing experience at a public school that students generally receive at a technical school,” LoRovera said.
The Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce introduced school officials to George Mitchell, a key member of the team at Sikorsky and a product of Ansonia schools.
“In several meetings with Mr. Mitchell, we were able to secure three summer paid internships for students—two males and one female,” LoRovera said. “This program allowed students to shadow Sikorsky operations employees.”
One of the best parts of the recent Women in Engineering event at the middle school was when students heard from female Sikorsky employees who have succeeded in STEM fields.
“Allowing students the opportunity to connect and ask questions to a high-level female executive on her experience and how she climbed the ladder, was invaluable,” LoRovera said.
Rowland said the company plans to continue working with students from Ansonia and elsewhere to raise awareness of a STEM education and the well-paying jobs in the field.
“We definitely plan to continue events like this, including in person once the pandemic ends,” she said.
“We have participated in Women in Engineering Day for a few years now, this was our first year with Ansonia, and have been reaching out to various partner schools over the last year.