Students’ skills must match employers’ needs
By Denise Dick
Students graduating from high schools, planning to enter manufacturing careers or science, technology, engineering or mathematics fields need to have the appropriate knowledge and skills.
That’s why the Mahoning County Educational Service Center presented “Reshaping Education to Fit Business and Industry” on Monday for business leaders and educators. The meeting was in the Joyce Brooks Center at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.
Ron Iarussi, MCESC superintendent, said schools want to make sure they’re providing businesses with a well-educated workforce. A number of schools including Youngstown, Austintown, Struthers, South Range and Canfield already have STEM programs and initiatives.
Martin Abraham, dean of the STEM College at Youngstown State University, said learning math is crucial to any of the STEM fields.
“In order for anyone to be successful in STEM, they first have to be able to do mathematics,” he said.
If a student gets behind in math, it’s difficult to catch up and they may get frustrated and give up on pursuing a STEM discipline, the dean said.
Jack Scott, founder and president of Applied Systems & Technology Transfer (AST2) of Youngstown, said the skills that students are learning have to transition to the next generation of manufacturing.
“The manufacturing of the future is going to take every bit of STEM we can give” students, he said. “The education system of today is not meeting those needs.”
Students are using 5-to-10-year-old textbooks in class when they can learn more up-to-date information faster from their smartphones, Scott said.
“Schools have to become digital,” he said. “How they’re learning at home is not how they’re learning in school, and we have to change that. It’s not challenging them, and in a lot of cases, not engaging them.”
Emilie Eberth, coordinator of STEM outreach and scholarships at YSU, said she’s found that many students come to the university underprepared.
It’s the same at other universities too. A recent survey by ACT, the student-testing service, found that only 16 percent of students graduating from high school were prepared for calculus, while 43 percent have precalculus readiness.
“We have to encourage math and get them excited about math,” Eberth said.
Jason Braddock, instructional consultant at MCSEC, said one way to address the issue is the creation of a STEM + Manufacturing School for sixth- through 10th-graders in the Mahoning Valley. Creating more internship and co-op opportunities for students with manufacturing companies also would help address the problem.