Future in STEM is bright for students

By: Kristine Bullock, SE Iowa STEM Hub Manager

It may not be the most well-known corner of the state. It may not have the tallest skyscrapers or the fastest-growing business sector. It may also not contain the most exciting travel destinations. But what it does have is a commitment to this state’s future and an abundance of opportunities for the upcoming generation of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) enthusiasts. Despite its small-town status, the Southeast region of Iowa has a lot to offer its residents and the entire state when it comes to STEM. These fields of study, through which countless career paths can be entered, has recently earned a lot of focus, and Southeast Iowa is at the forefront.

As the Southeast regional hub manager of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, I am passionate in my work to promote and encourage STEM in this area of the state. With numerous STEM-related opportunities available to primary and secondary education students, Southeast Iowa is preparing its upcoming generation whose future will be heavily dependent on these fields. To meet these goals, the region hosted The Southeast Iowa STEM Festival at the Southeastern Community College in Burlington on April 25, and was an experience for students and their families that encouraged entry into the world of STEM. There were various exhibits, games, and other activities aimed at providing a realistic view into the most exciting elements of the STEM fields.

Southeast Iowa teachers and schools also have been recognized for their efforts in increasing STEM in the region. Fourteen schools were recently named 2015 Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program winners, and almost sixty educators in our region were nominated for the STEM Education Award for Inspiring Teaching sponsored by Kemin Industries.

With this kind of opportunity and talent to educate our students, Southeast Iowa is well-equipped to produce a new generation of bright, hopeful, and educated young professionals dedicated to the world of science, technology, engineering, and math. These are exactly the kind of individuals Iowa needs to fill the skills gap the state has experienced in its workforce, and even more so in STEM jobs. In fact, a study conducted by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce indicated that for every 3.4 STEM jobs available in the state, there is only one STEM-qualified individual in Iowa to fill that position.

This information spurred Iowa to take action. In 2011, the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council was created as a way to keep Iowa competitive in STEM education and strengthen the state’s STEM educated workforce. Harnessing talent within the state also will ultimately help Iowa businesses find the talent they need and in turn help to grow the economy.

Southeast Iowa is home to many quality businesses that focus on STEM industries, including Siemens, DuPont, and Cryotech. These are only a few of the companies excelling in STEM-inspired industries, providing jobs all over Southeast Iowa, and re-establishing a strong economy for the region and ultimately, the state.

 

Growing Lee County

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Located in the farthest southeast corner of Iowa, Lee County is not one to overlook. Within a short time, the county has seen significant growth and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Renewable energy, agribusiness, manufacturing, and biotechnology are just a few of the county’s top industries that have seen significant economic growth in recent months. The construction of Iowa Fertilizer is just one great example of the vast economic impact that the region has recently seen. Since the project began in 2012, economic activity has increased as a result of the 2,900 construction workers brought on site to build the plant. Hotels, restaurants, and real estate numbers have risen due to the increased number of people in the region. With this as well as other projects in the area, Lee County’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.4 percent to 5.9 percent by the end of January 2015.

Lee County Economic Development Group is working feverishly in other ways to continue growth, such as this, and further grow the area’s businesses and workforce. Most recently, our team launched Grow Lee, a new initiative aimed at providing resources to expand STEM education, adult education programs, and provide essential resources for Lee County businesses. Our group also has launched the Lee County 2018 Capital Campaign. This initiative spans five years and hopes to grow development in multiple areas including, workforce attraction and workforce development, business expansion and retention, new business attraction, and economic development marketing. With the $1.3 million dollars raised for the program, our group will focus the majority of the funds on workforce development and business retention and expansion programs.

As we look ahead, Lee County EDG is calling 2015 the Year of Action and is excited to continue to make progress for these new initiatives, as well as assist the region’s businesses, workforce, and overall economic growth and development. Be sure to mark these upcoming events on your calendar to get involved in helping to grow Lee County.

·      Talent for Today and Tomorrow Breakfast – Up Training Existing Workforce

Wednesday, April 15

7:30 – 8:30 am

Lake Cooper Event Center, Keokuk

·      Young Professionals Meet and Greet Social

Wednesday, April 22

5:30 pm

Sidelines Sports Bar, Fort Madison

·      Southeast Iowa STEM Festival

Saturday, April 25

10:00 am – 2:00 pm

SCC West Burlington Campus, Register to exhibit today!

Lee County EDG, in concert with our partners, are making an impact in Southeast Iowa. To find out more about upcoming opportunities and how you can get involved contact Lee County EDG at dklesner@leecountyedg.com.

Dana Klesner, Marketing and Communications Manager

Lee County Economic Development Group

Dana