Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during the Fast Track Iowa’s Future conference where businesses and educators discussed the ways schools can grow STEM studies and prepare students who join the workforce.
Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during the Fast Track Iowa’s Future conference where businesses and educators discussed the ways schools can grow STEM studies and prepare students who join the workforce.

July 3, 2017

Des Moines

Like our cellphones, the world is continuously “updating” and advancing further into a more technologically based system. In order to remain up-to-date, Iowa’s STEM advisory council works to connect educators and business leaders across the state to move the state forward through STEM programs.

STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) has become extremely important in today’s workforce and education system. At the Fast-Track Iowa’s Future seminar in Des Moines, more than 500 businesses and educators pooled together to convey the importance of STEM learning beginning in the classroom and extending its reach into the workforce of Iowa.

IowaWORKS in Carroll was among one of the 500 businesses who attended the conference. Sherri Vaughn, a business marketing specialist at IowaWORKS, has attended the conference the past few years and returns every year, to learn what other communities, schools and businesses are doing.

“One thing is we are noticing that the economic developments are getting involved with the schools and businesses to see what they can do to promote the different businesses and occupations to see if they can be of some support,” Vaughn explained.

STEM studies are becoming more crucial to economic development organizations as technologies advance and required skill sets become more rigourous. The conference emphasized the importance of STEM awareness in Iowan communities. Future Ready Iowa works to develop connections between educators and businesses in order to meet both current and future workforce needs as Iowa continues to grow. Over the course of a few hours, many speakers such as Gov. Kim Reynolds, who sits among 47 STEM council members, spoke about the “Future Ready Iowa” program and the goals the organization aims to meet in order to prepare Iowa to meet the states need for talented workers in high-demand businesses such as advanced manufacturing, healthcare, agricultural science, information technology, finance and other fields.

“That is what this conference was about. Connecting education systems with the recipients they serve — employers — so that graduates are job-ready for the exciting, meaningful strong wage occupations that await right here in local communities across the state,” Reynolds said.

Fast-Track Iowa’s Future attracted many educators and businesses around the state. Each organization was presented with ways they can build connections in their communities between school and business programs, especially those directed towards STEM work.

IowaWORKS elucidated on how they plan to use what they learned from the conference to better their business and the community of Carroll.

“I think one of the biggest things that Sherri Vaughn (IowaWORKS business marketing specialist) and I do is work with businesses, so trying to get businesses to partner up with the schools and kind of understand that our youth are our upcoming workforce,” said Ashley Ricke, a business service specialist at IowaWorks.

During the seminar, participants such as IowaWORKS chose various “breakout sessions” to attend where they listened to speakers explain ways they can help involve their communities into STEM studies. Many economic developments around Iowa are becoming liaisons between educators and businesses in order to help them bridge gap between schools and businesses. This seminar provided IowaWORKS with more ideas on how they can connect the two and what businesses are looking for from workers so educators know how to meet those demands.

A perfect example of how STEM studies are impacting the learning and working world is vocational rehabilitation.

This assists customers who have certain disabilities such as a physical disability or even dyslexia to connect them with employers.

“There was one particular student who had just graduated high school. A few years ago, they may not have looked at him as an individual who is going to be successful but through voc rehab or some of these apps through Apple products or on his iPad would actually help him comprehend the information in school that he was reading and help him pull things together where he was struggling,” explained Nikki Olberding a workforce adviser at IowaWORKS.

Through STEM learning and programs, students and employees are able to create these new apps and devices that provide and create jobs for the community.

As Ricke at IowaWORKS put it, Carroll is “planning for the future,” so businesses are constantly working to grow and meet the demands of the world. In order for STEM study demands to be met, school systems need to work to meet the interests of businesses who expect more and more of their employees.