Employers Share Industry Intel with Faculty and Students at the Northeastern Massachusetts STEM Conference

Last fall, I covered a Massachusetts event on connecting education and employment. Governor Charlie Baker convened the event under the theme of Digital Innovation and Lifelong Learning. We heard from Jim Peyser, Massachusetts secretary of education, Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education (ACE), and Chris Gabrieli, Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education.

Community college, state university, and alternative education providers all spoke about the new strategies they were developing to support today’s workers with educational opportunities. Employers were also present and shared their needs to find qualified talent and continuously upskill their workers to grow their businesses.

So it was very interesting to attend another event — the Northeastern Massachusetts STEM conference — where employers led the conversation in front of an audience of mostly faculty and students. The event took place at my local community college, an institution which — in full disclosure — advised on this event, provided pro-bono consulting, and once upon a time taught as part of an employment and training program.

The Voice of The Employer

The event was organized by administrators in career development and emceed by faculty from North Shore Community College.

The program opened with Fady Saad, Co-Founder of MassRobotics, “…an independent, non-profit organization serving as the innovation hub for robotics and connected devices.” During his talk, Fady told an interesting story about the difference between startup incubators and startup escalators, what he calls “the next generation of innovation spaces.”

Next up was keynote Laura Major, VP of Engineering at CyPhy Works, a persistent drone company based in Danvers, Massachusetts. They design and manufacture drones that are tethered and provide communications and reconnaissance for their clients in the defense, public safety, and commercial industries. A relatively small employer, CyPhy Works is paving the future in this hot market where drone-based delivery and more are starting to become a reality.

Here are some highlights from Laura’s address:

The Questions from Higher Ed

Things really got interesting when the faculty and students were able to ask questions of Laura and the other engineering and robotics professionals who hailed from General Electric Aviation, Axis New England, Abiomed, and MilliporeSigma:

Not surprising, questions about how automation impacts workers were expressed. But the speakers had it covered.

Lifelong learning and upward mobility rose as strategies for competitiveness in the workplace.

One important question was posed by a faculty member, that got to the heart of a major topic in higher ed right now.

The panel responded with a number of ideas.

Higher education leaders were reminded that they do not stand alone in preparing students for the workforce!

Then a great question came from one student, with immediate responses from the STEM professionals in the room:

And finally, a question from a student about credentials for advanced manufacturing careers:

Opening Doors To Communication That Supports Employment

After the programming was done, the speakers, faculty, and students had the chance to network and visit some booths to learn more about STEM resources and employers in their community.

It was so important for North Shore Community College to hold this event — opening the doors of their Lynn campus and inviting local employers in. Opening the minds of their faculty and students to see and hear what STEM fields look like locally and what it takes to get in the door at one of these fast growing companies.

If higher education is to bridge the skills gap, then this type of forum should become a mainstay of that work. I hope to attend more of these events and report back on the good work being done to support learners investing in higher education and local industry employers looking to grow their businesses with the highest quality talent.

Hester Tinti-Kane

Hester Tinti-Kane

Hester Tinti-Kane is the CEO of EdTech Times. She's worked in digital media and education for over 10 years. Hester is passionate about transformative technology in education and business.