When GlobalFoundries first arrived in Malta, plans for a regional education initiative that could be replicated across the country were already in the works.
In fact, an underlying reason the semiconductor foundry decided to locate in the Capital Region was its cross-section of inner city, suburban, rural and multicultural educational institutions — the ideal regional laboratory to grow a future workforce.
On Tuesday, GlobalFoundries and the Center for Economic Growth launched the Tech Valley Connection for Education and Jobs initiative, a 13-county regional laboratory that will provide a trial for innovative practices in K-12, higher education and businesses in the region. The idea is to cultivate a homegrown workforce for the region’s growing technology sectors.
“If we are truly to leverage the public-private investment that has been made in our region over the last 15 years, we have to be sure that we have the workforce to sustain the companies that are here and to attract the companies that want to be here because others are here,” said CEG President F. Michael Tucker.
Already, 20 local chambers of commerce, 111 school districts and 345 schools have signed onto the initiative.
More than 100 students, parents, educators, business and government officials gathered at an unveiling of the pilot program Tuesday inside the Hudson Valley Community College TEC-SMART campus in Malta.
The first seeds of the initiative were planted in 2009, when GlobalFoundries was first taking the national stage. The company wanted to take advantage of the spotlight and approached the Obama administration about ways it could help the country on its path to bring investment and manufacturing back to American soil.
“No matter who we spoke to, education was a top priority,” said Mike Russo, senior manager of government relations at GlobalFoundries. “No matter who we spoke to, our economic security and national security depended on improving the education system.”
But while there was progress being made in a city here and a school district there, he said, few institutions were focused on connecting the dots on all of the innovative practices going on.
For example, innovative companies often have far-reaching recruitment efforts to hire the best and the brightest. But, officials wondered, what if an entire region worked together and formed a pipeline between education and future careers all in one place?
GlobalFoundries agreed from the start to launch a regional education initiative, but it would take several years to clear hurdles and get all the stakeholders — educators, government, business leaders and students — on board.
“Making sure that the work is scalable is very, very important,” said Russo. “We want to make sure that whatever we do, we create a pilot or model that will help the system nationally. So whatever we do here has to be able to be spread throughout the state and throughout the nation to help change the system nationally.”
Students at Johnstown High School are starting real businesses before they’ve even graduated.
Students in Amsterdam are building robots that play basketball. Students at Saratoga Springs High School are listening to biotechnology lectures at home and spending entire classes doing hands-on lab work.
These are just some of the innovative practices highlighted at Tuesday’s event that the initiative will expand on. Participants will share these experiential learning and project-based ideas and develop curricula that gets students ready to succeed in the local workforce.
One way they will do this is through the initiative’s ambassador program. Teacher, student and business ambassadors will participate in Tech Valley Connection for Education and Jobs meetings and events, where they share and learn about these practices and then relay them back to their principals, school boards, superintendents and student bodies.
Some schools, like Duanesburg Middle School, have been using the initiative’s practices for a year or more, while others will soon opt in.
Higher education institutions are pursuing federal grants to implement adult training and education programs that will increase the number of graduates with manufacturing skills and technical and engineering degrees.
As senior vice chancellor for community colleges and the education pipeline at SUNY, Johanna Duncan-Poitier works with SUNY’s 30 community colleges and 64 SUNY campuses to develop connections between educational institutions with business leaders and community organizations to prepare students for the 21st century workforce. She spoke directly to the dozens of students at Tuesday’s announcement about the skills they would need to secure a good-paying job after graduation. By 2018, she said, most careers will require at least an associate’s degree or equivalent training.
“Without you as our future,” she said, “these companies will go elsewhere.”
For more information about the Tech Valley Connection for Education and Jobs initiative, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The website for teachers and businesses throughout the region, www.techvalleyed.org, will go live in early 2013.