WELLESLEY HILLS, MASS. (June 30, 2015) – Boston College Lynch School of Education and Massachusetts Bay Community College will collaborate on a new career initiative, funded by the National Science Foundation, to prepare approximately 300 to 500 students per year from area high school students for careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The three-year, $891,000 Advanced Technological Education NSF grant will be used to create pathways to science and technology-based careers for students from Waltham High School, Framingham High School and Boston Public Schools students who participate in College Bound, the pre-collegiate program of BC’s Lynch School of Education.
Throughout the program, students will be introduced to coding, robotics, electronics and technology. The work will focus on improving students’ skills so they can find positions in high demand “middle skill” fields. These middle skill fields will require an estimated 225,000 new workers with post-secondary training in order to support the growth of this crucial economic sector in Massachusetts during the next decade.
Lynch School Professor David Blustein, an expert in STEM career trends, and Professor Mike Barnett, a specialist in science teaching and curriculum design, will work with faculty at MassBay and the services of Mentornet, an online mentoring platform that connects students with STEM professionals.
“We plan to engage middle and high school and community college students in learning electronics, coding, and engineering design using a variety of projects and an interdisciplinary approach that will serve as a launching point toward a technical career pathway for these students,” said Barnett.
The program will work with students of color and women beginning in their freshman year of high school, with the goal of helping them to transition to study at MassBay to obtain certificates or an associate’s degree, then enter the business world. According to Barnett, one of the most exciting aspects of the work “Is our capacity to track your impact on youth STEM career development from early high school and on into college. This will enable us to answer some important research questions regarding how we can best support low-income youth, youth of color, and women in not just staying in STEM fields but to become role models for others.”
iCREAT is designed to support the state’s technology workforce. A 2014 Massachusetts Works report found middle-skill jobs represent the largest share of available jobs in Massachusetts—about 45 percent. But slightly fewer than one-third of the state’s residents have the necessary training to fill those positions.
“It is not enough to simply provide the classroom experience,” said Blustein. “Mentoring is crucial and we’re excited to offer a robust technical tool as well as career counselors to provide these students the opportunity for STEM career discernment as they prepare to enter the workforce.”
“This collaborative endeavor with Boston College and Mentornet adds a new dimension to the programs, classes and support MassBay faculty and advisors provide to students who dream of working in the STEM fields,” said Shamsi Moussavi the lead investigator on the project. “We’re excited about the opportunity to serve our students, local employers and the Greater Boston community through this innovative, engaging, and project-based program that will educate and empower young men and women to enter the tech economy with the skills and support they need to flourish.”
MassBay Community College serves a region where there are significant shortages of entry-level programmers, network engineers, and information technology management experts. Recently, the Massachusetts state government has requested that community colleges extend their programs to fill the gap being left by vocational schools.
The project will further develop the web-based mentoring system in an effort to provide a holistic program that can be adopted by any community college in the nation.
“The need for a well-educated tech workforce isn’t limited to Massachusetts or Silicon Valley,” said Barnett. “Entrepreneurs are creating jobs throughout the U.S. We think that our collaboration will provide a model program that other institutions throughout the country can use to support the career interests and goals of young people, as well as the needs of industry.”
MassBay Community College is a comprehensive, open-access college dedicated to student learning and achievement through academically rigorous courses and programs. MassBay awards associate degrees and certificates in more than 70 academic programs in the liberal arts and in career-driven fields, such as business, health sciences, and automotive technology. On the college’s three campuses in Wellesley Hills, Framingham, and Ashland, as well as online, MassBay offers day, evening, and weekend classes that meet the needs of degree-seeking students and career-minded life-long learners.
More information about MassBay and the upcoming academic semesters can be found at www.massbay.edu, or by calling (781) 239-2411.