Workshop for Pee Dee STEM educators details workforce development funding

Pee Dee educators with a focus on STEM education gathered Thursday at the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology for a workshop hosted by the Clemson University Center for Workforce Development to learn how area schools and colleges can apply for monetary awards to further their programs.

As part of its commitment to bolster South Carolina’s manufacturing base, the Duke Energy Foundation has funded workforce development initiatives in the state with a $4.11 million grant to help provide a next-generation workforce in key cluster areas.

Educators from school districts and technical colleges who attended the workshop share a common purpose: To spur job growth by helping develop a labor force with specific skills in STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Specifically, the center’s focus is on advanced manufacturing to support South Carolina’s burgeoning manufacturing industry.

Ginny Hall, Center for Workforce Development program manager, said the gap between available jobs and a home-grown educated workforce will increase if South Carolina continues on its current path.

“We risk our advanced manufacturers looking elsewhere to fill the gaps,” Hall said. “Particularly in STEM fields, education is the key to workforce and economic development.”

Duke Energy tasked Clemson’s Workforce Development Center to manage educational, research and outreach activities in support of workforce development and STEM education.

The center oversees distribution of these funds to partner institutions that include universities, technical colleges, K-12 institutions and STEM-oriented organizations through competitive grants, scholarships and internships.

Duke Energy’s funding will help create virtual resources designed to support industrial development, sponsor competitive grant opportunities for K-12 and technical college classrooms, support scholarships and internships across multiple South Carolina institutions of higher education, and finance conferences to create greater awareness of workforce development issues.

Click here to learn how to submit proposals and qualify for awards.

Elaine Craft, director of the S.C. Advanced Technology Education (S.C. ATE) National Resource Center for Engineering Technology, told the workshop that advanced manufacturing companies employ scientists and engineers in fields as diverse as aerospace, biomanufacturing and robotics.

But the wide array of disciplines do not stand alone, she said, and students in the modern industrial era need knowledge and need to know how to employ that knowledge.

“There are so many exciting opportunities today,” Craft said. “If I was a student today, I don’t know what I’d do — I’d want to do them all.”

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