NW Washington STEM Network celebrates five years of workforce support

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

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The Northwest Washington STEM Network, one of EDASC’s major workforce partners, celebrates its five-year anniversary in 2022, a major milestone for an organization that’s seen impressive growth – and results.

The organization began as the Skagit STEM Network, setting a goal to provide students with the best opportunities to break into high-demand jobs of the future. STEM refers to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Careers in these fields typically offer family-wage jobs.

Now, the organization has evolved and expanded to become the NW Washington STEM Network, serving as a catalyst for STEM education in Skagit, Island, San Juan, and Whatcom Counties. To support this role, their backbone agency is the Northwest Educational Service District (ESD) 189, supporting all K-12 school districts in these counties.

“The foundation we’ve built over the past five years is strong,” said Jennifer Veltri, NW Washington STEM Network Director and Career Connect Washington NW Regional Co-Director. “We have tremendous momentum to create even more opportunities, make additional connections, and leverage resources to achieve our goal of providing every child access to lucrative and rewarding STEM careers.”

EDASC has supported the organization since its inception, connecting it with businesses looking to get involved with preparing students for rewarding careers. In 2021, EDASC co-hosted the Career Connect Skagit Summit to explore the partnership between industry and education and look at ways for businesses to get involved.

“The only way to develop a pipeline of qualified workers is to start with children in schools,” said EDASC CEO John Sternlicht. “EDASC strongly encourages businesses to get involved with the NW Washington STEM Network to help cultivate our workforce and help students successfully compete for the jobs of the future.”

Moving forward, the goal of Northwest Washington STEM Network is to continue growing its work while expanding its focus on equity, said Veltri.

“It is amazing to see how the network has grown and evolved over the past five years,” she said. “It speaks to the relevance of our work and desire for business, educators and the community to work together to accomplish program goals and leverage each other’s resources.”

In celebration of the Northwest Washington STEM Network’s 5-year anniversary, here are five major accomplishments of the organization (among many more), presented in no particular order.

  1. STEM Like ME!: This program is an engaging interaction between local professionals in STEM fields and middle school students. More than 80 business mentors have participated in this program to date, impacting over 2,500 students in every school district across Skagit County. Program goals include increasing student awareness and interest in STEM careers and the education options that lead to those careers.
  2. Spotlight on Women in STEM: This annual event brings together hundreds of young women from area schools to learn from successful women in STEM and interact with local industry. The event has included keynote speakers like Congresswoman Suzan DelBene and Shirley Yap, senior vice president of chemicals and products at Shell. In 2021, the event shifted gears due to the pandemic, featuring a series of inspiring videos with interactive classroom materials designed to highlight opportunities for women in IT, healthcare, manufacturing, engineering, and construction. This event began in 2018 and has served over 800 young women in Skagit County.
  3. Business outreach events: The Network hosted several other regional events highlighting the intersection of industry and STEM education. The Apprentice Roundtable attracted leaders from northwest Washington to discuss the power of creating a culture of learning and giving all children the opportunity to achieve the American dream through career connected learning and apprenticeship opportunities. A high-tech summit featured local businesses along with GeekWire publisher John Cook. In partnership with EDASC, it also hosted the Career Connect Summit to connect industry and education.
  4. $2 million in scholarships and grant funding: With the help of Northwest Washington STEM Network, more than $2 million in scholarships have been awarded to over 100 students in Skagit County to pursue STEM and healthcare degrees in the state. The Network has also consistently received grant funding to further amplify its work
  5. Advocacy: During Washington’s legislative sessions, Washington STEM, alongside NW Washington STEM, the nine regional STEM Network partners, and the 150-person Washington STEM advocacy coalition, worked successfully to advance policies that focus on equity, STEM, and creating meaningful change for students who are furthest from opportunity in our state. Efforts focused on five policy asks prioritizing Washington STEM’s focus areas – Career Pathways; Early Learning; Statewide Office of Equity; Broadband expansion & Digital equity; and Equitable access to Dual Credit programs.

Get Involved Are you interested in working with NW Washington STEM Network to address workforce issues and support local students? Contact us online here: nwwashingtonstem.org/contact-us.

Category: News, Education