Bay Area LEEDS Newsletter

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Vol. 1 | November 2020

Heads, Hands & Heart—Vital for New Nonprofit

by April Treece, Chief Executive Officer
Bay Area LEEDS

Bay Area LEEDS is celebrating its one-year anniversary this fall and we couldn’t be more proud. At the core of our mission is the preparation of our region’s youth for tomorrow’s STEM careers in collaboration with business and education.

Our work is designed to excite students about pursuing purposeful post-secondary pathways that are aligned with high-wage, high-skill, high-demand jobs in the global economy. It is vital that our efforts focus on the most important part of our work—engaging heads, hands and hearts. (Read more.)

Engaging headsIt is no secret that to access STEM careers after high school graduation will require at least one year of post-secondary education—and maybe more. Yet, according to 2019 data from the California Smarter Balanced Dashboard, only 40% of the state’s students meet or exceed math standards and 50% meet or exceed English standards. In science, the number is bleaker with 28 percent of high school students meeting or exceeding standards on the California science test.  Even lower rates among Hispanic, African-American, and low-income students worsens the economic divide. Research tells us when college preparation is integrated with career preparation through career-themed pathways, each reinforces the other, creating a much more powerful learning experience with real benefits. Further research suggests those in Career Pathways attend school at higher rates, graduate at higher rates, and pursue college at higher rates. Engaging heads!

Engaging handsWe each know intuitively that being able to learn by doing is much more meaningful and exciting than memorizing facts and figures. Career Technical Education (CTE) programs in high schools build foundational technical skills and help students gain practical experience which will serve them well as they consider future pursuits upon graduation.

High-quality CTE programs, like those provided by Project Lead The Way, offer students content-rich curriculum that integrates both academics and hands-on experiences. This curriculum can build a solid foundation for our students to springboard to purposeful post-secondary education and training. Rigorous PLTW courses that emphasize analytical thinking—–challenging students with substantial reading, writing and problem-solving requirements—–enable students to demonstrate what they have learned. And, because PLTW courses are more academically challenging, they have the distinction of being honors courses—a new kind of CTE that ensures students are both college and career ready upon graduation. In some cases, these courses offer college articulation, enabling students to earn college credit while in high school. Engaging heads and hands!

Engaging heartsWe have asked Bay Area employers what they need. They tell us they require a steady flow of talented individuals who are prepared for careers—some not even known today—who are comfortable with change, and prepared for continuous learning throughout a lifetime. A talent pipeline that can transform academic knowledge to practical application.

Industry’s engagement in helping develop a talent pipeline can unleash the passion of kids in their learning through real-world projects, broadened networks, and rich relationships with our employer community. Filling classroom spaces with the stories of successful business people can inspire kids to envision their own plans and follow in the footsteps of their mentors. If students are able to connect their rigorous and relevant classroom experiences to these real people doing real things in the local economy, students will see themselves in those careers, and employers will be successful in developing their future workforce.

Engaged employers can open doors for students to many career possibilities. They can fuel students’ passions to do the hard work it takes to pursue STEM careers that will most certainly be plentiful in the Bay Area into the future. Isn’t it our collective dream that our community’s children grow up to have career opportunities that allow them to love what they do, do what they love, and earn a sustainable wage that gives them the choice to live, work, and raise a family in a community of their choosing?

Engaging heads, hands and hearts can be a powerful thing.