Engage future STEM workers before they learn to drive

Gilbert Hantzsch, PE | with 0 Comments

Engage future STEM workers before they learn to drive

The concept of recruitment needs to change. Private companies head to college fairs and develop materials to engage future employees. Work-life balance, anyone? But the real push for STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) recruits needs to begin earlier – much earlier. It’s time for STEM-based organizations to bring employees into our local schools to share their knowledge. Let’s pitch the value of professional engineering licenses to students before they sit behind the wheel to earn their driver’s licenses.

We’ve experienced the success of private-public partnerships in communities. Developers often receive financial incentives from local governments to expand and create new job opportunities. All parties can expect a return on their private or public investment, although it may take years to realize.

Public-private partnerships in our schools also will require many years to achieve a return on investment. Those of us in industry need to get over the expectation of short-term results and look instead to the value of enlightening future workers to the possibilities of technical careers. The City of Baraboo and Baraboo School District are working together to encourage local businesses to get more involved in the schools and assist with introducing students to STEM careers at an early age.

The work of engineers and other STEM-focused professionals is often in the shadows. Students are unaware of engineers’ important role in their communities, state and nation. MSA Professional Services, in conjunction with the City and School District, is working to change that perception, one classroom at a time. Some of our engineers are bringing their knowledge into the classroom. They have challenged students to filter water using different media and to build model bridges that can “beat the engineer.” We want these youngsters to experience the joy of solving real-life challenges, and to realize that those experiences are just as, if not more, rewarding outside of the classroom. When students we work with consider future jobs, our goal is for them to add “engineer” to their short list of police officer, nurse or rock star.

The growth of public-private partnerships in our schools reflects districts’ shrinking budgets and need for outside support. Involvement results in a triple win for employers. Participation in local schools contributes to the pipeline of future recruits for STEM businesses, provides an opportunity for employees, particularly millennials, to do something purposeful that builds loyalty to their organizations and boosts community goodwill.

It’s time for STEM-focused private entities to offer a new level of support to their local schools. This participation makes good business sense and it’s what your employees and communities will come to expect. 
Gilbert Hantzsch is president and CEO of MSA Professional Services, which was recently named to the 2015 Business Honor Roll by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. The video was shared by the Baraboo School District and City of Baraboo when they delivered a presentation on engaging business partners at the Wisconsin School Public Relations Association Fall Conference.

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