Message from Brandon Jewell | Director of Industry Engagement
“When life gives you lemons, learn to juggle!”
When the shelter-in-place order hit last spring, I admit it was difficult for me to understand how best to do my job, which is to connect teachers and their students to local employers to help young people explore and prepare for career opportunities here in Sonoma County. This is a crucial part of CTE curriculum because it helps students understand the real-world relevance to both the academic and hands-on learning they’re doing in class.
As April 1 rolled around, it was clear that school-community engagement was going to look different than ever before. But CTE Foundation was committed to finding a way to spark students’ interest through engaging opportunities.
I began by recording one-on-one interviews with local employers to help students explore careers from home. These were a hit for students and teachers, but we at CTE Foundation wanted to do more to actively engage students and allow them to interact with employers.
Over the summer, we conceptualized a year’s worth of virtual activities with a focus on local career opportunities. In October, we partnered with the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, Sonoma County Office of Education and local employers to design five live activities including virtual facility tours, manufacturing demonstrations and panel discussions.
There is no substitute for in-person learning, but we’ve discovered that virtual activities allow us to impact more students per activity than we ever could in person. Instead of a single class with 25 students, hundreds of students can engage with one activity! These virtual experiences provide an opportunity to be live and interactive, but recordings are available on YouTube, allowing students to learn on their own time.
Thanks to partnerships with local employers, these activities are made for and by local people, connecting students to career opportunities in Sonoma County and providing an important distinction between any other videos or learning activities found online.
November is Construction Month and we’ve partnered with the North Coast Builders Exchange to bring more live virtual activities to students. We look forward to bringing teachers and students a full school year of live and interactive virtual activities that offer the unique opportunity to connect with and learn from local employers.
We’d love you to get involved. Reach out to me to learn how you can support these virtual activities. To see all of the past and future activities, visit www.CTESonomaCounty.org/VirtualCCL.
–Brandon Jewell, Director of Industry Engagement, CTE Foundation
Industry partners in construction and engineering have been sharing their educational and career pathways with students through interviews, virtual tours and panels.
Check out all the virtual activities available here.
Santa Rosa, California (October 25, 2019) – STEMhub, a web-based platform designed as a dynamic resource for women and girls interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and careers is now live.
STEMhub is the first online resource to serve as a clearinghouse for women and girls in the North Bay to learn about regional STEM-related opportunities such as classes, meetups, events, seminars, careers and conferences. It is designed to connect “learners” – those interested in pursuing STEM education or career pathways – with “mentors” who are already working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
Nationally and in California, the demand for a skilled STEM workforce is growing and STEM jobs offer higher salaries than non-STEM jobs. Women working in STEM jobs earn, on average, 33% more than those in other fields, yet women account for only 24% of the STEM workforce. Women’s under-representation in STEM fields begins early, with gender gaps in STEM interests beginning in middle school and growing throughout high school, college and career.
To address these challenges, the Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation launched Community WISE (Women Investing in STEM Equity) in 2017, a coalition of individuals and organizations wishing to invest in support structures for women and girls in STEM. CWISE has been working strategically for two years to identify innovative solutions that enrich learning experiences and inform career exploration such that more North Bay women and girls will be encouraged to pursue STEM education and careers. An example of this effort includes the successful Girls Tinker Academy, a two-week summer camp that utilizes maker principles and activities to introduce and teach STEM concepts (see Press Democrat article from June 30, 2019).
“STEMhub is a way for us to both broaden and deepen our impact for girls in the North Bay by allowing us to engage with potentially thousands of women and girls instead of just dozens,” said Amber Figueroa, associate executive director at CTE Foundation. “We’re really excited about the mentor component because research shows that when women and girls are introduced to strong STEM role models who are women, a career in these fields becomes as attractive and attainable as any other.”
The STEMhub web platform uses gaming strategy in its design and offers “badges” to learners for participating in various local STEM events, connecting with other learners and mentors, and for building a mentorship relationship. Learners are separated into pathways according to their current level of STEM participation and can move to other paths depending on their engagement with the platform. Once learners become more experienced in their chosen STEM fields, they receive a certificate from the platform, and they are encouraged to apply for mentorship on STEMhub to help other young women find their own way in any STEM field.
With direction from the CWISE Steering Committee, STEMhub platform development has been led by Dr. Julia Mossbridge, a scientist, technologist, and author who puts together technology teams. “This launch is really thrilling for me,” Mossbridge gushed. “I’ve been in this field for twenty years and this is the first time I’ve worked with an all-woman team, believe it or not. I’m not saying it’s better; I’ve worked with excellent men too, but for this project there is of course a feeling of commitment among these women. This experience reinforces my belief that we need more women in STEM not because it’s simply ‘fair’ or ‘equitable,’ but because we need people who think in many different ways to solve difficult problems, and my team has done just that.”
STEMhub is a community driven resource web-page, so community members with a background or experience in STEM – or simply with a passion for supporting women and girls to pursue STEM education or careers – are invited to begin populating the site with community events and mentor profiles. Simply log on to stem-hub.com to add community events or register as a mentor.
For more information, visit stem-hub.com and ctesonomacounty.org/cwise.