Path Home Shows 2016 Show Archive October 2016 Show 1643 MidAmerica Delivers STEM Labs

MidAmerica Delivers STEM Labs

MidAmerica Industrial Park’s STEM labs are helping educators promote STEM education to their students.
MidAmerica Delivers STEM Labs

MidAmerica Delivers STEM Labs

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MidAmerica Industrial Park

American Castings

Joy Hofmeister

Show Details

Show 1643: MidAmerica Delivers STEM Labs
Air Date: October 23, 2016



Rob McClendon: Well, Oklahoma’s largest industrial park is investing over one point two million dollars in Mayes County STEM Labs. This, the latest push of MidAmerica Delivers, a workforce development program designed to train and attract workers to the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor.

Rob McClendon: For students at Locust Grove High School, class is up in the air. This is the school’s just opened STEM lab – one of five turnkey STEM career centers being built in Mayes County school districts.

Lori Helton: And really it’s all about student engagement.

Rob: Locust Grove Superintendent Lori Helton.

Helton: Education is not the same as it was even 10 years ago. It’s getting kids hands-on with the learning and seeing that there really is a high level of technology out there that they know how to do and at a very, very young age.

Rob: Which is why Pryor’s MidAmerica Industrial Park is creating a pipeline of highly trained workers well before they ever interview for a job.

Mike Fuller: The workforce development initiatives that we have going on in the Industrial Park are, you know, helping to line up the future skills because we have a lot of employees that are fixing to retire.

Rob: Mike Fuller is the general manager of American Castings and says the STEM fields are critical to the future of his company.

Fuller: Because everything we do is with heavy equipment that is making product as quickly as we possibly can make using emerging technology. Today is extremely important to be able to compete with, I mean, most of our competitors are not in the U.S. Most of them are in India, China, Brazil, eastern European countries. So we have to be smarter than what they are to be more efficient than what they are, and that’s how we compete in this marketplace.

Rob: And it all starts in the classroom. Meet Tiger Pride.

Tiger Pride: This is our claw, right here. And what it does is it closes and picks stuff up, so.

Rob: A robotics team made up of students as young as fourth grade already interested in how things work.

Student: I’m still trying to get it back to base without, like, dropping it because it’s hard to grab it in the position that it sits.

Rob: And it’s students like these that brought employers, civic leaders and educators to the MidAmerica Expo Center to kick off the first phase of a $3.5 million investment into the MidAmerica Delivers workforce program. Dave Stewart is the chief administrative officer for the industrial park.

David Stewart: Well, what we find with site selectors and companies, before they make a decision to either expand or move to a location, they evaluate the future workforce. And as we kind of have to compete with other areas around the country, having a good workforce is critical to landing that company here. So that’s why it’s important to us.

Rob: In addition to the $1.2 million investment in the new STEM labs, MidAmerica is committing to spend an additional $2.3 million to develop STEM programming for area students that meets the park employers’ needs. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister says with state cuts in education funding, programs like this are vital.

Joy Hofmeister: So the public-private partnerships that we see really exemplify today is, here in Mayes County, is a model for what we want to ignite across the state and increase these kinds of public-private partnerships and really work with business in a way that is a little closer than what we may have seen in the past.

Male: I see the future. I see us able to provide them with opportunity and in rural Oklahoma, that’s very difficult because the metro areas typically have more resources and availability of these kinds of things. Rural Oklahoma does not. And so we are giving these kids, literally, the opportunity to compete at a high level and make it exciting and do it different. That’s what we’re doing, we’re doing it differently to get them more involved.

Hofmeister: I think it’s important to remember that for kids, you cannot be what you don’t see. Teachers have the ability to identify strengths and passion in the students in their classrooms and help them really cast a vision for where that student might be able to study and later work. We need to do a better job of helping teachers be that bridge, and then we need a great invitation to the business and industry of Oklahoma and invite them in to our schools and to our classrooms.

Rob McClendon: Now, MidAmerica is not alone in trying to bring education and industry together to meet current and future job demands. Next week, we are going to take a closer look at a state program called OK Works that uses public and private partnerships to ensure Oklahoma’s future workers will have the skills needed to succeed in the high skill, STEM-focused industry sectors of the 21st century.