In February 2015, the Brookings Institution released the report, "America's Advanced Industries: What they are, where they are, and why they matter."
The authors of the report identified 50 industries that constitute the advanced industries sector, of which 35 are related to manufacturing, 12 to services and three to energy. The report states, "As of 2013, the nation’s 50 advanced industries…employed 12.3 million U.S. workers. That amounts to about 9% of total U.S. employment. And yet, even with this modest employment base, U.S. advanced industries produce $2.7 trillion in value added annually—17% of all U.S. gross domestic product (GDP)."
Another benefit of these advanced industries is: "In 2013, the average advanced industries worker earned $90,000 in total compensation, nearly twice as much as the average worker outside of the sector. Over time, absolute earnings in advanced industries grew by 63% from 1975 to 2013, after adjusting for inflation."
One of the report's recommendations for our nation's private and public sector was: "Recharge the skills pipeline." While everyone agrees that filling the pipeline at an early age is essential to increasing the numbers, achieving this goal has been frustrating.
A number of organizations have been working to fill the skills pipeline by developing the next generation of manufacturing workers. For many years, the SME Education Foundation has been committed to advancing the manufacturing industry and stimulating the interest of youth in STEM education and manufacturing careers. "The Foundation invests in students through a broad array of scholarship programs and makes a direct impact on manufacturing education through their Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education (PRIME) program. PRIME provides high school students with opportunities to pursue rewarding careers as engineers and technologists; this includes vocations involving mechatronics, welding, CNC programming, robotics and much more."
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) “Dream It. Do It” program has helped to expose our youth to the modern manufacturing environment and change the image of manufacturing to one that is “cool” and full of exciting career opportunities.
These newer programs build on the work of the non-profit organization, Project Lead The Way, which has been working since 1997 to promote STEM curriculum for middle and high school students during the school year, along with their Gateway Academy, which is a one- or two-week day camp for 6th-8th graders that includes team-building exercises, individual and team projects, and utilizes the latest technology to solve problems.
However, none of the above programs are geared specifically to girls, and it is an even bigger challenge to attract girls and young women to technical careers. Studies have shown that when role models and mentors are provided to girls, they are more likely to follow a similar career path.
Two years ago, I wrote an article about the Playbook for Teens, created by Cari Lyn Vinci and Carleen MacKay, which is available in print and digital format at Amazon. In the Playbook, girls can meet fascinating women in STE@M (the “@” stands for “art”) and follow the “plays” of successful young women to help them create their own “Dream Career.” At the end of each story, the Playbook role models share heart-felt advice for girls to apply to their career path. Then, questions are asked of the reader to help them take the first step to writing their own Playbook. The Playbook is dedicated to the smart, talented teenage girls who will become the future business owners and leaders in STE@M industries. The Playbook can be used as a tool for organization and corporate partners to solve their future talent pool problems.
I recently reconnected with Vinci and interviewed her about why she created the Playbook for Teens and what has happened since 2014.
Why did you create the Playbook?
"When I was a teenager, I never dreamed that I would do some of the work I have done and that I would be able to be successful in several different careers. A common thread in my previous careers was that I spent more than 20 years hiring and writing training programs to help employees reach their goals. My previous business was helping adults figure out their next career, and if they wanted to be a business owner, helping them buy a franchise. This led me to wanting to help students understand that what they study in school and the education they get after high school will shape their choices as adults…in careers and lifestyle. Before I sold my last business, I realized that I wanted to focus on this goal next and collaborated with Carleen McKay to write the Playbook for Teens. We have packages available to help corporations recruit talent and market their brand. After I sold my business in 2015, I began working full time to achieve my goal.
What did you hope to accomplish?
"I wanted to help connect the dots for kids, so they could make the right choices on what to study to prepare for a career that matched their interests and talents and would provide them the opportunity to live the lifestyle they wanted to live."
What was your original plan for the Playbook?
"I wanted to inspire and highlight that there are many paths to success and that going to college for the traditional four years is not the only choice. I wanted to show students that people who look like them are happy and successful in careers and doing wonderful things to make the world a better place."
Why STE@M instead of STEM?
"The “@” in STE@M represents the addition of art to the other disciplines, as studies show art training is relevant in STEM subjects." Vinci emailed me a link to her YouTube video, in which she said that "art and making things are closely related." She added, "One of my ancestors was Leonardo DaVinci, and he was an artist, sculptor, scientist, and inventor, who used technology, engineering and mathematics."
Why did you focus on girls?
"We did extensive research before developing the STE@M™ Mentoring Program. Our discussions with middle school girls revealed there are several roadblocks that start to show up in Middle School. Students told us:
- STEM careers are only for boys.
- STEM subjects are too hard. My teacher says I only need to “fill in the blank class” to graduate.
- There are no girls in the science club.
- I don’t want to be viewed as the "smart one."
- My friends aren’t interested in STEM.
- My parents don’t talk to me about, or can’t afford, an education for me beyond high school.
Our Playbook for Teens…STE@M Mentoring Program helps girls catapult those roadblocks by discussing the elephant in the room and helping girls see the truth and the possibilities. The 8th grade girls tell us these conversations are more open and beneficial in a "girls only" environment.
By seeing the necessary building blocks and seeing women who look like them that are happy and successful in STE@M careers, students understand what is possible for them. And, most important, students form a “techie tribe” of support to keep them motivated going forward.
When the program is delivered in 8th grade, students have the opportunity to take appropriate courses in high school based on their “Playbook for Success” which includes their education goals after high school of community college, a four-year college, military or other education option.
The mentoring program is a way to set the stories in motion by bringing more young women into the lucrative STEM arena. Teens explore STE@M careers, gain insights from the role model stories, journal and research educational options.”
How has your plan evolved in the past two years?
We launched the Playbook at the Sacramento State and the AT&T non-profit group, Women of AT&T, Expanding Your Horizons event in Sacramento in October 2014 with books for 400 girls. One of the role models in the Playbook was the keynote speaker. Then, I participated on panels for WITI and the Global Women's Entrepreneur Conference and gave presentations at the AeroSpace Museum for students and JSPAC for California educators. We had a team at the first ever Start Up Weekend for Women in Sacramento. I completed the Entrepreneur Showcase Accelerator program and graduated by pitching to a room full of investors, (think Shark Tank with nice people). The Playbook for Teens was written up in Huffington Post and featured on News 10.
In February 2015, we got an order for 100 books from the Livermore Expanding Your Horizons event and an order for 200 books from Diablo College. The organizers bought Playbooks for the parents and I did a presentation for the parents to be able to help their daughters' research STEM careers using the Playbook.
When groups of students experience the Playbook together (with a mentor, teacher or parent), there is energy, commitment and excitement. We now have Playbook guides for 1-12 mastermind sessions. The train the trainer curriculum is eight sessions, and we have a modified version for parents. Teen Mastermind Members share ideas, research and build confidence as they make decisions and take action towards their goals. Teens discover important success skills for life and career through the Mastermind—while they build a “professional network” of other students who have an interest in STE@M.
We developed an app to compliment the Playbook for The Women of AT & T. We have packages available to help corporations recruit talent and market their brand." Starting with The Women of AT&T at their "Expanding Your Horizon" event and the American Association of University Women's (AAUW) "Tech Trek" event, educators and non-profits have asked to use the Playbook in a group environment. Educators wanted to use the information in the classroom, so I wrote the Playbook for Teens — STE@M Mentoring Program.
The Yolo County office of Education hosted the first Playbook Pilot that started in December 2015 and ran through March 2016 at Lee Middle School in Woodland. After a presentation about the pilot, teachers were asked to recommend 15 girls who have an interest in STE@M and who they thought would benefit from participating in the pilot. We received 54 recommendations within 24 hours; the teachers and counselors narrowed the number down to 14 participants.
I was very honored to receive the 2016 Yolo County School Board Association’s Yolo County Excellence in Education Award on May 2 for the Playbook for Teens STE@M Mentoring Program. Our program encourages girls to explore the possibilities of a career in science, technology, engineering and math."
What is your current goal for the Playbook?
"We are working with the Community College Chancellors office and County Offices of Education to conduct "train the trainer" programs for teachers/counselors/parents so that educators can bring the Playbook for Teens — STE@M Mentoring Program to Middle School students throughout California. Our next steps include writing a Playbook for boys and girls and collaborating with other education content providers to extend the program into high school. The Director of Careers at the County Office of Education in Yolo County would like the Playbook Program in all 11 middle schools."
I think the comments that Michael Gangitano, counselor and career exploration teacher at Lee Middle School in Woodland, gave at the awards ceremony provides the best opinion of the importance of this program. After he received an award for bringing the innovative program to his campus, he said, “Having worked with middle and high school students for the past 35 years, I am constantly on the lookout for instructional tools that help young people see and plan for their future. Playbook for Teens is one of those resources that only comes around once in a great while that proves to be a rare gem.
The STE@M Mentoring Program arrives in an era when women are increasingly prominent in medicine, law, and business, but still lag behind men in STEM career choices. The program aims to disrupt that trend by providing a mentoring program in schools, in after school programs, at youth groups or at home."
I was pleased to hear from Vinci that a modified version of the program is now available by webinar for parents and youth leaders and that invitations are being sent out this week to the Greater Sacramento Area Middle School educators and counselors to attend a Professional Development Training on the PLAYBOOK for Teens — STE@M Mentoring Program to be held August 10 or September 2, 2016. She said that Middle School educators and counselors are eligible for a complimentary registration and $250 stipend to attend.
In conclusion, I can't do better than echo the final comments of Gangitano, "…let’s touch the lives of middle- and high-school aged girls by providing an inspirational life plan that knows no boundaries. Your students, daughters, their friends and our future deserve no less."