Massachusetts Companies Urged To Add STEM Internships
A skilled workforce is needed in Massachusetts to keep the innovation economy humming, and state officials have decided the solution starts in high school.
Massachusetts companies are being encouraged to offer new high school internships in science, technology, engineering and math. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who leads the STEM Advisory Council, said it has benefits for the students, participating businesses, and the economic future of every region in the state.
"If we can get a student connected to work in this region chances are they will stay in this region, begin their career, grow their life and family right here," she said.
Polito met recently in Springfield with business leaders, workforce development specialists, local educators and elected officials to promote the program called MA STEM@Work.
"Through our initiative called Connecting Activities there are funds and resources available for employers to particpate in the internship program," said Polito.
She announced that Columbia Gas of Massachusetts will join the list of participating employers that now numbers about 250 statewide. About 1,000 high school students had internships in the last couple of years.
Participating businesses in western Massachusetts include MassMutual, which hosts about 100 high school interns a year, and Creative Material Technologies in Palmer, which has taken in about a dozen high school interns since 2011, according to company president John Becker.
He said high school students bring energy and ideas and get a chance to find out what they’ve studied in school means in the real world.
" When a student ' gets it' that is the best thing," he said.
Becker’s company develops high performance coatings and recently patented a new roofing material that automatically changes color from white in the summer to reflect the sun to black in the winter to absorb heat.
David Cruise, president of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, said the agency will develop a set of best practices to guide more companies toward participating in the STEM internship program. He said schools will be encouraged to make internships part of the curriculum in vocational and technical programs.
" We believe worked-based learning is a critical part of what high school students need to see particularly in our Gateway Cities Springfield and Holyoke," said Cruise. " So we are trying to push that."
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said an internship can be an eye-opening and life-changing experience for a high school student from a poor neighborhood.
" We are trying to show our kids that if they want that ka-ching in their pocket then it is cool to know science and math," said Sarno.
A recent analysis by WalletHub.com ranked Springfield as the fifth best metro area in the country to pursue STEM careers.