One of the biggest challenges in workforce development is getting educators to teach the skills employers need.
A new program from CBIA affiliate ReadyCT, the Joyce D. and Andrew J. Mandell Academy for Teachers at the Connecticut Science Center, and the Connecticut Department of Education brings educators to shop floors to learn from manufacturers the skills they need to teach the next generation of workers.
The Educator Externship Program pairs a team of three educators from a participating school district—a career and technical education teacher, a counselor, and an administrator—with a local manufacturer to learn what math, science, and other skills they need in their current and future workforce.
So far, 10 school districts have enrolled in the program, which will include three onsite visits by the school district team to the local manufacturer it is partnered with.
“The idea is to give the district teams an immersive experience working with a STEM-related employer,” Shannon Marimón, executive director of ReadyCT, said in a recent webinar.
“Teams of educators will learn about STEM-aligned industry in our state to better understand the skills, dispositions, and considerations [employers] have when they think about their ongoing workforce development needs.”
Some of the district teams are paired with a manufacturer that’s located near the school.
The teams will spend a half-day minimum at their manufacturing partner’s plant in each of three separate visits to take place in late February/early March, April, and May.
“This is an opportunity to get inside the business experience and hear about what employers are working on so those lessons can be translated back into the classroom,” Marimón said.
She said the program’s goals include having educators develop an action plan to guide their work and share their findings with their schools/districts.
“We hope educators can take this experience and what you learned back into the classroom,” she said.
Marty Guay, Stanley Black & Decker’s vice president for business development, said educators, parents, and students must understand that today’s advanced manufacturing provides clean, challenging, well-paying careers.
“I know a lot of people think school is to prepare young adults for college but we believe they need to prepare them for careers,” Guay said.
“And we know that people who go into trades, those are not as prestigious for the parents or grandparents.”
But, he said, parents and grandparents should consider that Connecticut has the highest-paying manufacturing sector in the country with an average annual wage of $103,000.
“Jobs have changed so much,” Guay said. “We need welders on the shop floor who can do computer diagnostics, who can evaluate software, who can understand statistics on a model on a screen next to where they’re welding jet engines—that’s how high tech it’s becoming.
“These jobs are really important but they’re also jobs that have meaningful careers around them.”
High Tech Skills
With some 60,000 workers worldwide, Stanley Black & Decker expects it will retrain half its workforce in the next five to 10 years, Guay said.
“That’s because jobs are going from dull, dirty, and dangerous to high tech,” he said.
“People aren’t going to be using their hands. They’re going to be using their heads, and machines will be doing the work.
“There are massive implications for us around learning, lifelong learning, and having people who have the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn different skills, behaviors, and needs.”
Guay said advanced manufacturers understand that the right person doesn’t need a college degree but they do need digital skills.
“Not having digital skills is like living near the ocean and not learning how to swim,” he said.
“The digital divide is getting bigger where people who have the skills can be more successful than people who don’t.”
The program hopes to help build tomorrow’s workforce by enabling employers to tell educators what they need and for educators, in turn, to design the appropriate curriculum.
“The purpose is to break down some of the silos that exist between education and business,” Marimón said.
This program is a pilot effort. With additional support, organizers are prepared to run future editions.
For more information or to get your company involved, contact ReadyCT’s Sheryl McNamee.