Measuring progress. Inspiring action.

For Discussion

October 2013

Building a pipeline of talent

Marilee GrantMinnesota Compass just launched a new STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) section on Compass in partnership with Boston Scientific, and developed with the help of a STEM advisory group. Marilee Grant, Boston Scientific Community Relations Director, explains why this information is important to Minnesota’s bright future and vibrant economy.

Q. How did this project come about?

A. It was developed as part of a STEM initiative to convene a wide cross-section of STEM stakeholders to create a common, action-oriented framework to help guide dialogue and inform strategic decisions to help us collectively improve STEM education.  We hope it can be used as a tool to share best practices, create better alignment among stakeholders, help identify opportunities for collaboration, maximize resources, broadly share data, and most importantly, track if we are making a difference.

Q. What types of jobs/fields are we referring to when we talk about the need for STEM skills?

A. It’s vital to ensure we have the knowledge and skills to participate in an increasingly technology-driven economy.  Minnesota is fortunate to have a rich history in innovation with industries such as medical device and high tech. In order to sustain and build upon this foundation, we need a strong pipeline of talent with knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering and math. These jobs include everything from engineers and scientists to computer programmers, high skilled production workers, technicians and more.

Companies are increasingly in need of STEM talent as demand for these jobs continues to grow, and will continue to grow well into the future. By investing in STEM education we not only strengthen our economy, we also provide higher paying career opportunities and bright futures for Minnesotans.

It’s also important to note that we are an increasingly technology-driven society. In general, people need to be comfortable using technology in their daily life, regardless of what career they choose. People also need strong STEM skills for everyday decisions, such as mortgages or car loans, making good purchasing choices, creatively solving problems, and to effectively participate in national dialogue about subjects like healthcare or fiscal decisions. The better STEM skills people have in their daily lives, the better equipped they will be to make the best and most informed choices and to be actively involved in decisions that affect them.

Q. A recent report from Brookings Institution, the Hidden STEM Economy, suggests that there might be too much emphasis on 4-year degrees vs. postsecondary certificates and associate degrees. What is your reaction?

A. The current economy requires all aspects of STEM careers, from certificates and 2-year degrees to 4 -year degrees and Ph.Ds. We need people in labs or offices creating and testing new concepts and ideas, but just as importantly, we need people who can make the ideas a reality through manufacturing, processing, and delivery. And, importantly, we need people who can translate the language of technology into a language general consumers can understand through effective communication. The cradle-to-career initiative includes all types of STEM pathways.

Q. Is this about interdisciplinary education, or ensuring that students understand content from each subject area?

A. The advisory panel for the project shared a belief that STEM education is best for students when it is integrated. STEM is about real world challenges and part of our daily experiences, which are not naturally segmented into subject areas. They are often complex and require integration of various skills and knowledge, from reading and comprehension, to math and science, and 21st century skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. This is one reason why science is such an important subject for our students. It naturally allows them to integrate all of these aspects in a way that is tangible and relevant, and allows them to build and practice a variety of skills and knowledge.

Q. What considerations went into choosing the specific key measures for this project?

A. We built the framework on a cradle-to-career continuum, around five themes and chose key measures that were actionable and took a broad view of the student experience. For instance, knowing a student’s standard math score in 8th grade is great information, but if we don’t understand the context around that number, it’s difficult to take action or fix a problem. In order to holistically understand what is happening and intervene appropriately, it’s important to be knowledgeable about the experiences and resources a student needs to progress and grow successfully. It’s also important to have alignment along the continuum to ensure the student is transitioning well and is prepared with the appropriate skills and knowledge to be successful in the next part of their education journey – including being prepared with skills and knowledge for jobs that exist and are in demand in the workplace when they complete their education. 

We also needed to shed light on gaps in opportunities and achievement along the continuum. For example, data on high school graduates taking the ACT show more than a 20-percentage-point gap between the proportion of white students and students of color meeting math and science college-readiness benchmarks, despite a higher proportion of students of color indicating interest in pursuing a STEM major. We created the Disparities section to help stakeholders explore these issues.

Q. By whom and how do you envision the framework, measures, and resources being used?

A. We hope this information is helpful to all stakeholders in our children’s success – whether formal or informal educators, parents, policy makers, administrators, businesses, or nonprofits. We all want to ensure we are preparing our children for a bright future in a vibrant economy. 

Related Links on Minnesota Compass

High school graduation rates
Postsecondary Degree Completion

Disparities in Minnesota: Race, Income and Gender
Education Library

Follow our Twitter feed and Facebook page to stay involved, and use the #CompassSTEM hashtag

Marilee Grant has over 27 years of experience in healthcare and hospitality industries. Her experience includes strategic planning, sales, marketing, communications, philanthropy and community engagement.  In her role, Marilee has been responsible for developing the strategies, objectives and focus areas for Boston Scientific’s Minnesota Community Relations, as well as making vital connections with employees and the community.

Marilee has served in leadership roles with several nonprofit and industry boards and has been an active mentor.  She has a B.A. in Speech Communications from the University of Minnesota.


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