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June 19, 2014

Summit highlights the science of job growth

Area business owners and managers joined educators Wednesday to find a formula for matching students with STEM, jobs of the future.

Elements of the equation include classroom instruction, mentoring, job shadowing, degree programs, internships, and more, according to speakers and participants at a Workforce/Education Summit in Oneonta on Wednesday.

However, several educators in attendance also cited challenging factors facing students, including poverty, the need for core courses and for time to mature.

About 65 representatives from school districts, colleges, companies, health care providers and economic development groups and others met for the first such summit presented by Career Opportunities in Rural Education. The program was in the Morris Conference Center at the State University College at Oneonta.

The program focused on job and career opportunities in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields and how to prepare students for employment in current and future fields.

“We have a lot of economic development groups working separately,” said Liz Rickard, director of CORE, an initiative launched in 2011 by Milford Central School to serve as a regional hub for educational opportunities and career advancement.

Rickard said the summit was designed to bring the economic development groups and educators together to “connect the dots” in efforts to establish a “pipeline” of prepared workers who can find employment locally. CORE is a catalyst toward making connections, identifying needs and providing training and educational opportunities, she said.

Education administrators from Laurens, Milford and Edmeston central schools reviewed local programs, either established or under development, to provide advanced instruction in STEM topics and exposure to different jobs and career fields.

Brian Hunt, superintendent of Edmeston Central School, said the process includes stimulating interests of students by showing them real-world applications of lessons they learn in school.

Ken Tompkins, a regional director with Empire State Development reviewed goals of the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council. While educators are preparing pupils to become contributing citizens who lead meaningful lives, a tandem goal must be to give them access to jobs in the marketplace or the means to create new jobs, he said.

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