Bringing STEM to Life


Since January, students and parents at Sarah J. Rawson Elementary School have had their nights filled with technology, math, and family fun.
Located in Hartford’s Blue Hills neighborhood, Rawson Elementary is the state’s first Lighthouse School: partnering with businesses and community groups to better engage kids in science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), and art.
With a grant from the State Department of Education, the pre-K through eighth grade school benefits from resources, support, and arm-in-arm partnerships with these groups to not only immerse students in the academic benefits of STEM but also introduce them to the career possibilities that STEM provides.
Family Fun Nights, Literacy Nights, Math Nights, and Technology Nights are just a few of the ways the Lighthouse model is empowering parents to work effectively to support learning at home.
Aside from evening events, there are several family-oriented activities aimed at helping parents and students see how the scientific concepts and math problems they’re working on have real meaning in the real world.
“These events tie STEM education to real life,” says Shari Cousin, CBIA Education Foundation project director for the Rawson School initiative.
“They show students how STEM is applied in everyday ways and how it’s connected to good careers. We help parents extend their children’s learning at home by offering guidance on how to talk to kids about the connection between STEM and their daily lives.”
Manufacturing Misconceptions
CBIA’s Education Foundation also works to expand the public’s perception of STEM careers to include often overlooked and undervalued jobs in manufacturing: one of Connecticut’s most important economic sectors.
“Parents and students recognize that economic-base STEM industries such as technology and biopharma demand high-skill employees and offer high earning potential; but few parents and students see manufacturing as a source of high-skill, high-wage jobs,” says Cousin. “We’re determined to change that perception.”
According to the 2015 Parents’ Perceptions of Manufacturing Survey (conducted for Alcoa Foundation in partnership with the nonprofit SkillsUSA), 90% of parents worry about their children’s future career options given the state of the economy, and 87% believe STEM education is critical for economic success. The same survey also shows, however, that fewer than two-thirds of parents are familiar with current career opportunities in manufacturing.
And their views of manufacturing jobs are not very positive: or accurate.
Most parents surveyed (89%) think the average hourly wage for manufacturing jobs is $7 to $22 an hour, when in fact the industry average, including benefits, is actually closer to $34 an hour.
One in five parents surveyed believe manufacturing jobs pay minimum wage, lack benefits, and fail to provide intellectually stimulating work.
The reality is that manufacturing workers have the highest job tenure in the private sector, nine out of ten have medical benefits, and the average salary for an entry-level manufacturing engineer is $60,000.
“With so many skilled employees aging out of the workforce, manufacturers are facing a talent shortage,” says Cousin.
“We are working to show young people that manufacturing is a STEM industry and that it offers exciting opportunities and strong wages and benefits.
“When it comes to math and science, we’re answering the age-old question, ‘When am I ever going to use this?’ And when it comes to manufacturing, we’re answering the question, ‘What’s in it for me?'” —Dave Conrad
Dave Conrad is a senior writer at CBIA.

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