Most of the 740,000 new jobs Washington State will see in the next five years will require some kind of postsecondary credential, but not necessarily a traditional four-year degree.* Many high-tech industries value specialized certificates, industry certifications or professional-technical associate degrees. Meanwhile, too many young Washingtonians enter college with the goal of a four-year degree and no idea of how they want to use it. An even larger percentage do not pursue, or have the access to pursue, a postsecondary credential at all.
Career connected learning opportunities are an essential part of building a pathway to fulfilling, sustainable careers. We believe these experiences should start early in life, be richly diverse, and easily accessible. By connecting students with employers and working professionals, students can explore industries and professions that already interest them and learn about jobs they hadn’t imagined were out there.
We work to provide opportunities for our region’s students to connect with local STEM businesses and professionals through job shadowing, worksite tours, job fairs, STEM competitions, guest speakers, internships, apprenticeships, mentoring and more. Our goal is to ensure that every young adult in Washington will have multiple pathways toward economic self-sufficiency and fulfilment.
STEM Like ME!™ Explore
STEM Like ME!™ Explore, launched in early 2020, pairs STEM professionals (Mentors) with small groups of middle-school students. Students engaged in a hands-on activity designed by their Mentor and Q&A time to explore how the Mentor found their career pathway. With a few live sessions successfully completed, the program quickly re-grouped in March/April to develop and deliver a virtual version to students. New mentors and improvements to the virtual experience have continued throughout 2020.
Annual Bridge Challenge
Each year at our annual STEM Showcase, elementary, middle- and high school students are invited to enter a bridge building challenge. Following specific criteria to each age range, students engage in an engineering design process to construct an amazingly strong, light-weight, one-of-a-kind bridge. Building a bridge requires students to consider concepts such design and material constraints, load forces, and bridge load testing methodology. Each student, or team of students, conducts research, then designs, tests, redesigns, retests and ultimately builds a bridge for the challenge. Bridges are weight tested to determine their load limits and at the high school level, judged based on their design aesthetic, load limit and their live load to weight ratio (calculation: pre-testing bridge weight and live load weight). The larger the ratio, the better the score!
Resident Physicians Guest Speakers
In partnership with Northwest Washington Family Medicine Residency, CHI Franciscan Silverdale, resident physicians visit with local high school students for discussion and Q&A about allied health professions. Students learn about the many career pathways available in the high demand field of healthcare.
One of the Network’s newest members expanded the “outer space experience” for students and teachers by connecting with teachers in the Northwest Earth & Space Sciences Pipeline (NESSP) professional learning cohort. In NESSP sessions, Russ Glenn, Director of Education at Slooh, facilitates ongoing discussions to explore astronomy and the newest technology available for use with students. Launched in 2003, with four telescopes at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands, Slooh now has a worldwide network of 15 robotic, mountaintop telescopes providing real-time viewing. All of which can be remotely viewed and controlled by users. WSSN school districts received grant-funded teacher memberships to Slooh so that our region’s teachers can use the telescope network with their students in their classrooms and with remote learning.
Healthcare professionals such as biomanufacturing technicians, entry-level lab assistants, nursing assistants and other healthcare workers are in very high demand. WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Project Lead The Way (PLTW), and West Sound STEM Network (WSSN) have partnered to expand a Biotechnology Career Launch Intermediary program in our region. Students enrolled in PLTW Biomedical Science programs will have the opportunity to engage with local Bioscience industries, earn dual credit, and earn the Biotechnician Assistant Credential (BACE). This program prepares students who plant to study healthcare in college, provides dual credit opportunities, and prepares students for high skill, high wage job opportunities right out of high school.
Controls Programmer Youth Apprenticeship
West Sound STEM Network, in partnership with companies like MacDonald Miller, Johnson Controls, Inc., Long Building Technologies, local high schools and higher education, co-created the Controls Programmer Registered Apprenticeship for youth interested in entering the Controls Technology industry. Through the highly effective structure of apprenticeship, combining academic study with on-the-job training, students (as registered, working apprentices) learn to manage automated systems in complex, high-tech facilities. Today's smart buildings industry faces a serious shortage of workers and needs hands-on professionals with knowledge in controls technology, computer programming and networking, electronics, energy management strategies and contracting.
Postcards from Space
Astronomy, space travel and technology, astrophotography and moon bases! All are topics teachers (and consequently their students) have explored through West Sound STEM Networks STEM Cafes, workshops and partnership programs. One of WSSN’s newest partners, Blue Origin, carries postcards from students into space and back on their New Shepard rockets. The postcards, decorated with student’s ideas, artwork and messages, are launched by the crew in a capsule that descends to Earth under parachutes after floating in space 100 kilometers above Earth. They recover the postcards, stamp them with “Flown to Space,” and mail them back to students as keepsakes.