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Working Together: Be part of Nevada’s STEM ecosystem (Voices)

Amy Fleming

Working Together

Amy Fleming
Courtesy photo

What is STEM? Breaking down the acronym, it is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

Those familiar with the term may be wondering why I am not including A for “Arts” here. As a musician and advocate for the arts, I recognize the importance of including that “A.” We acknowledge that it is a crucial element of education and encourages creativity, imagination, and innovation — all important components of a well-rounded workforce and community.

However, the focus for this article is on workforce skills specific to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

What’s the STEM Ecosystem? It’s anything related to, supportive of or dependent upon STEM — which, is pretty much everything. Do you breathe air, drink water, eat food, visit a doctor, drive a car or use a phone? Well, each of these activities rely on an abundance of STEM skills in our workforce.

Our region is fortunate to have a plethora of passionate and engaged partners working to support the “STEM Ecosystem.” A recently established initiative by the Nevada Governor’s Office for Science, Innovation, and Technology (OSIT) has engaged the Desert Research Institute (DRI) to create the Nevada STEM Networks, aiming to connect resources in the STEM Ecosystem under an aligned strategy to elevate the state’s competitiveness and efficacy.

Because the needs around STEM are complex and region-specific, three sub-committees have been established to drive regional development: a Southern Nevada Committee, a Northwestern Nevada Committee, and a Rural Nevada Committee.

One major initiative of the NV STEM Networks has been to catalog resources supporting STEM into a comprehensive asset map. The purpose of the map is to house a directory of organizations that offer STEM education and workforce development programming across each of the network’s regions.

If your organization is engaged in any activity that seeks to educate, inform, mentor or do more for STEM topics, then please take a minute to fill out this survey (accessible here: bit.ly/30Lb1vc) to make sure your programs are included on the asset map.

The Nevada STEM Networks is encouraging all in the ecosystem — government, employers, educators, nonprofits and others — to attend the Nevada Virtual STEM Summit, set for 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 21, via Zoom.

The Summit will engage stakeholders to uncover and share sector needs and expertise, and to build collaboration to develop a healthy STEM Ecosystem. A keynote address from Kelli List Wells, Executive Director of the STEM Leadership Alliance, will kick off the event and be followed by regional and sector breakout sessions.

One intended outcome of the event is to identify specific gaps in the STEM Ecosystem and create regional action plans to bring about community change. The event is free, and participants are encouraged to reserve a spot in advance at the following link: bit.ly/3lnWIVh.

So, why should you, an employer with so much — on top of COVID — on your plate, participate? Could you benefit from a more aligned workforce, elevated partnerships or a more robust local cluster?

  • Aligned Workforce: Students must be able to apply their coursework to local industry demand. A comprehensive alignment of resources invested in education and other training programs helps ensure that the students that emerge at various levels are aware of and can meet your needs.
  • Elevated Partnerships: The numerous programs, agencies, and departments engaged to support employers can be difficult to navigate. As funding and leadership changes, connections may be lost and engagement is often discontinued. Streamlined systems and processes to strengthen relationships with key stakeholders is crucial to save the time and frustration, and sustain a long-term, productive partnership.
  • Robust Local Cluster: A cluster is a group of related companies, organizations, and institutions in a particular field and geography.  lusters engage local assets and similar companies, institutions, and infrastructure to increase employer productivity and competitiveness. More on clusters can be found at this link: clustermapping.us.

Engaging in the STEM Ecosystem and, specifically, the STEM Summit, may help bring your specific needs to light and engage partners to close the gaps.

This is an opportunity for you to share your perspective on a cohesive strategy, improved communication and aligned resources to support a STEM environment to meet your business’s needs.  

Please contact Eric Holmes, Manager of the Northwestern Nevada Network, at Eric.Holmes@dri.edu with questions or for more information.

“Working Together” is a recurring Voices column in the NNBW authored by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, where Amy Fleming is director of workforce development. Reach her for comment at fleming@edawn.org.