New England News
6:00 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Mass. Governor's STEM Advisory Council Meets In Pittsfield

At a meeting of the Massachusetts Governor’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Advisory Council in Pittsfield today, resigning Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray said that the collaborative work done between the public and private sector to strengthen students’ opportunities in the STEM fields must continue in his absence. 

The Massachusetts Governor's STEM Advisory Council met at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield.
Credit Lucas Willard / WAMC

Lt. Gov. Murray has served as chairman for the STEM Advisory Council since it was signed into law in 2009 by Governor Deval Patrick. Council members include state education officials, representatives of education facilities across the state, and representatives of the private sector.

Murray, who is resigning his position as Lt. Governor to become the head of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, said that the STEM Advisory Council must continue in the next the 18 months of Governor Patrick’s term and beyond to help secure economic stability for families in a state supported by the Innovation Economy.

"We're an innovation state from end to the other, and this is critical for our economic well being and also for individuals and families that want the economic security pursuing fields in STEM," said Murray. "It can be at a vo-tech school, it can be an Associates' degree, it's not always an advanced degree and a doctorate. STEM fields allow people of a lot of different levels to plug in and earn a good living."

At the meeting, officials announced profess on the near-completion of the first phase of the council’s STEM plan. An updated plan will be prepared for the 2013 STEM Summit in November.

The UMass Donahue Institute recently completed its 2013 STEM Dashboard project, which collects  statewide education data in the STEM fields with six goals in mind – expanding student interest, increasing  student achievement, enhancing student readiness for higher education, improving graduation rates, educator effectiveness and workforce development.

Jean Supel, Research Manager at the Donahue Institute, says that the data collected can be applied to help schools and the state communicate.

"Whether it's girls in computer science in the Berkshires or boys in health in Lowell, that somebody can find a link, that link ties them to this bigger mission of the state, and allows the state to communicate down with them, and for them to communicate their best practices upward," said Supel.

The Dashboard projects’ focus on tracking student workforce development programs is valuable to the private sector, according to J.D. Chesloff, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and chair of the executive committee of the STEM Advisory Council….

"I hear from employers all the time from a variety of industries, whether it be manufacturing or utilities, or construction, or tech, or financial services, that they're looking for a workforce that's skilled in STEM competencies and they're having a hard time finding workers," said Chesloff.

Some of the STEM Advisory Council’s strategies are the so called @Scale Initiatives, which use state dollars to leverage private sector money to enhance STEM programs. One example showcased at the meeting was the STEM Pathways Project at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, which includes two student tutoring programs.

The meeting also spotlighted regional efforts to encourage student involvement in the STEM fields. Winners of MCLA’s recent Middle School Science Fair Allison Wolfe, of Pittsfield, and Ella King of Lenox, presented their research at the meeting, which focused on separating plant pigment.

Wolfe said she’d like to see more done for science programs in her school and others.

"What I want to see is each grade level having different opportunities with lab work in their classrooms, and more advanced placement in their classrooms," said Wolfe.

Some of the challenges discussed by council members looking forward are generating interest and improving teacher prep programs, and also getting young women interested in the STEM fields.

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