(WACO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College and the Washington, D.C.-based Challenger Center hosted a panel discussion titled “From Cradle to Career: Workforce Development Through K-12, Technical College and Industry Partnership” on Thursday, June 22, at TSTC’s Col. James T. Connally Aerospace Center on the Waco campus.
The event’s focus was on the value of K-12 engagement and the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, bridging the Challenger Center’s mission with TSTC’s recruitment goals to ultimately meet industry’s workforce needs.
Mike Reeser, chancellor and CEO of TSTC, and Lance Bush, president and CEO of the Challenger Center, were the event’s co-hosts and moderators.
Panelists included Chris Allen, superintendent of schools at Midway Independent School District, Harrison Keller, commissioner of higher education for the state of Texas and CEO for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and Sara Tatsch, general manager and vice president for the modernization and modification group at L3Harris Technologies.
Reeser talked about the ever-growing importance of technology in education.
“If you hadn’t noticed, technology is integrated into every young person 10 years and older,” he said. “They certainly are digital natives in a way no other generation has ever been.”
Bush illustrated the correlation between a STEM education and lucrative job opportunities.
“We need a big, strong STEM workforce,” he said. “That’s tantamount to all of our economic well-being. And for the coming generations of STEM workers, those job opportunities, they’re plentiful, and they don’t need a Ph.D., a master’s or even a bachelor’s degree to get a good job. And when you find that STEM job, it’s a good-paying job.”
Bush cited a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study that found that last year the country had over 10 million STEM-related jobs and projected an 11% increase in the number of these jobs over the next decade.
Allen said Midway ISD begins integrating STEM skills in its curriculum as early as prekindergarten.
“We have STEM awareness days on all of our elementary campuses where we bring folks in from all different STEM sectors to be able to interact with students and give them hands-on activities that they can do in our schools to help them understand the potential work that’s out there for them to do,” he said.
A special guest in attendance was June Scobee Rodgers, founding chair of the Challenger Center and the widow of Richard “Dick” Scobee, who was killed while commanding the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986.
“The excitement and joy of hearing other people tell the story in a sequence of five people was fantastic,” she said after the panel discussion. “They all told the story I tell all the time.”
For more information about the Challenger Learning Center, visit tstc.edu/challenger.
For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.