For Immediate Release - January 19, 2017

Baker-Polito Administration Highlights Employers Participating in MA STEM@Work

Springfield-Holyoke companies participate in program connecting high school students to STEM internships, address skills gap

Springfield -- The Baker-Polito Administration today announced that Columbia Gas has signed on to participate in MA STEM@Work, an expanded initiative that connects high school students to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) internships across the Commonwealth. Columbia Gas joins Baystate Health, Behavioral Health Network, Collins Electric, Creative Material Technologies, Hampden Engineering Corp., Holyoke Medical Center, MassMutual, Mercy Medical Center, and other companies that are providing STEM internships to high school students in Springfield, Holyoke, and other communities throughout the Hampden County region.  

The announcement came during a roundtable discussion in Springfield with Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, local business and education leaders, and Regional Employment Board of Hampden County President and CEO David Cruise.

“Highly skilled workers excelling in STEM fields are crucial to ensuring that our economy remains one of the fastest growing and most innovative in the country,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We are excited that members of the Holyoke and Springfield business community recognize the opportunity MA STEM@Work presents for the future of the Hampden County workforce.”

The Massachusetts STEM Advisory Council, which is co-chaired by Lieutenant Governor Polito, U.S. Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, and Jeffrey Leiden, M.D., Ph.D., Chairman, President and CEO of Vertex, recently identified four priority areas to advance STEM education in the Commonwealth. This includes expanding work-based learning opportunities in STEM fields by building a stronger network of employers offering career exploration and career immersion experiences to high school students, including job shadowing and paid internships.

“By providing vital career preparation to young people through this program, Western Massachusetts businesses will create a strong pipeline of qualified workers for the future,” said Lieutenant Governor Polito. “The STEM@Work program will be an important component of our innovation economy going forward, so we thank the employers who have stepped up throughout the Commonwealth and encourage others to consider doing the same.”

The STEM Advisory Council is working with the Massachusetts School to Career Connecting Activities system to identify and develop STEM internship opportunities in Hampden County and throughout Massachusetts. The goal is to place more high school students in STEM internships in Summer 2017 and beyond.

“High school is a critical time when students have the opportunity to learn and hone the many science, technology, engineering and math skills they will utilize throughout their careers,” said Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. “Companies in Springfield, Holyoke and throughout the area are making a difference by providing work-based learning opportunities to high school students so they can gain valuable skills and develop a passion for the different types of STEM careers available.”

More than 250 STEM companies from every region of the state have hosted about 1,000 high school students each year since 2014. In total, more than 10,000 students worked with Commonwealth businesses of all types last year.

“Students in Holyoke and across Western Massachusetts are looking for hands-on opportunities that extend beyond the classroom, and into the kinds of jobs they know will be there in the future,” said Dr. Stephen Zrike, the Receiver/Superintendent of the Holyoke Public School system.  “We’re excited that high school students in the area will have the chance to learn about STEM fields from businesses and organizations right here in Hampden County.”

“As a major employer in Western Massachusetts, we know how important it is to develop a skilled workforce that can excel in STEM fields,” said Steve Bryant, President of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts. “The success of our company and our industry depends on these workers. We’re excited to join MA STEM@Work because it enables us to offer important educational opportunities for students even as we cultivate a diverse future workforce of talented employees.”

During the next decade, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology estimates that U.S. industries will need one million more STEM graduates than the system is expected to produce. Despite the need, the U.S. Department of Education estimates that just 1 in 6 high school seniors are proficient in math and interested in pursuing STEM higher education or careers.

Given this challenge, Massachusetts is working to connect high school students to internships at companies of all sizes across the Commonwealth. The Connecting Activities system, which features dedicated staff who work with companies and high schools, provides assistance and support to businesses throughout the internship process.  

“We know that STEM-based career opportunities are important to the future of Western Massachusetts,” said David Cruise, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, Inc. “The region has made a significant commitment to promoting STEM initiatives and companies, so it makes sense for us to also be involved in the MA STEM@WORK program.  We’re looking forward to hearing from our high school students about what they learned at their STEM internships.”

To learn more or to participate, please contact Blair Brown, staff director at the STEM Advisory Council, at Blair.Brown@state.ma.us.

About the STEM Advisory Council

The vision of the STEM Advisory Council is to ensure all students in the Commonwealth receive comprehensive STEM education from highly-qualified educators so they are better informed and prepared to pursue post-secondary degrees or careers in these areas. Members of the Council include individuals from academia, business, government and non-profits who are well positioned to provide elevated awareness to the benefits of a STEM literate and skilled citizenry ready to fill the ranks of the 21st Century workforce. Building on earlier initiatives, the Governor’s Advisory Council on STEM is now authorized by Section 218 of Chapter 6 of Massachusetts General Law. For more information, please visit http://www.mass.edu/stem/home.asp.

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