I firmly believe that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education is and will continue to be a driver in education reform as schools and school funders (read: taxpayers) make the connection between “success in school” and “success in college and career.” Lack of technology skills creates a barrier to success for some students. For others, acquiring a working and comfortable knowledge in STEM is a pipeline to a successful career. But must the responsibility for creating a STEM-literate workforce rest entirely within our K-12 education system?
In Cincinnati we are fortunate to have a collective of major employers and the universities charged with training STEM candidates for those employers. Together they have formed the “INTERAlliance,” charged with working together to identify, nurture, train, employ, and retain the area’s best IT talent. Their mission? “To create a renowned, thriving and sustainable pool of IT talent in the Greater Cincinnati Region that not only fulfills local demand, but also is strong enough to actually attract new employers to the area.”
Introducing STEM to kids is one thing. Transitioning their love of technology (think gaming, Legos, robotics) into meaningful college and career paths is another. Enter the TECHOlympics. Once a year the INTERalliance hosts an “annual 3-day conference, high-tech competition, STEM career fair, and celebration of technology for local high school students that provides opportunities to explore new technology, compete school against school, and connect with industry leaders in a career-invigorating, safe, experiential atmosphere.”
High school students form teams (more than 40 schools are represented) and compete for the INTERAlliance Cup. Competitions are focused on helping students make the connection between the technology and tools they love and meaningful careers.
More importantly, though, is the creation of a community based organization that can keep its finger on the pulse of STEM needs in our geographic area. With a membership of major employers representing multiple fields of STEM, the INTERAlliance is a powerful connector for students to apply their abilities. Besides hosting the annual Olympic-style event, the INTERAlliance aligns students with paid internship opportunities so they can explore what working in a tech field might be like.
KnowledgeWorks is pleased to be a supporter of TECHOlympics Expo 2013 – taking place this coming weekend at the Millennium Hotel in Cincinnati. Registration is still open for area high school students. Resistance is futile.