STEM in the Real World
How do modern successful companies prepare for future workforce needs? How do they guarantee that there will be a steady pipeline of qualified candidates ready to fill the burgeoning demand for technically trained individuals? If you’re the Ford Motor Company, you start an initiative called Next Generation Learning to bring real-world problems into the classroom, problems that demand collaboration among teachers of computer science, math, and physics, problems that demand cooperation and collaboration among students, practical problems that demand solutions.
Ford’s goal is to encourage the connection between what goes on in the classroom and a future career, as well as develop students with strong technical backgrounds. In developing the initiative, Ford plans to serve 7,000 students in cities where it has plants within the next 5 years by opening 20 academies, each providing coaching, mentoring, and technical and financial support. Teachers spend time training in Ford facilities so they have hands-on experiences they can take back into the classroom. The benefit is that the state standards for each of the students’ required classes are taught through projects based in computer-aided design, engineering, and manufacturing. For example, students might construct robots designed to perform specific manufacturing tasks, requiring knowledge of physics, materials science, design, and engineering; these are first-hand experiences in preparation for future careers.
What has been a distinct positive of the initiative is that students previously apathetic about math or science now have a passion for them because they see how they are applied, and how essential they are to practical concerns. Another benefit is that students have a more realistic sense of what jobs and careers are available to them once they graduate.
At Village Glen, we have instituted this approach increasingly over the last couple of years, deepening the reach of hands-on, real-world experiences in the classroom to make learning more experiential, and more relevant to the demands of the 21st century marketplace. From CAD software to environmental science, we continue to graduate students well positioned to succeed and thrive by meeting the demands of commerce and industry.