Dow creates K-12 pipeline to fill positions
Anticipating growing competition for skilled workers, Dow stepped up efforts with a program called STEM – science, technology, engineering and math education – to literally create a K-12 pipeline to fill these highly sought jobs.
“The worker of today and tomorrow has to become a more skilled worker as Dow steps up the need,” said Jordan Tremblay, Dow’s public affairs manager in Hahnville. “We hire a lot from Louisiana and education is trying to step up to meet that need.”
Tremblay said the pipeline requires STEM strategy, which includes partnerships as well as diversity.
“If we can prepare these people to fill our workforce then we’ve got to succeed with academics, industry and governmental relationship toward creating a workforce of tomorrow or a talent pipeline,” he said.
One of those pipelines is at South Central Louisiana Technical College in Reserve, where the school has nearly 700 students directly in STEM programs related to Dow work.
Melvin Harrison, director of students affairs, said they’ve had a longstanding relationship with the chemical giant and it’s showing in the growing demand in tech fields such as process technology and industrial instrumentation technology.“Science and technology is the world today,” Harrison said. “Everything has a science component to it, even some of the basic things. We don’t have anything that we manufacture or use that doesn’t require knowledge of science or math.”
Industry expansion is happening with nearly 10 percent growth in these fields anticipated over the next three years. For Louisiana, the figure could be 69,000 job vacancies by 2018, but the STEM program came into being when it was determined that the state wasn’t preparing students for the jobs.
“It’s everything,” Tremblay said of how STEM could benefit Dow and its jobs requiring knowledge of math, chemistry and engineering. The jobs are technologically demanding, such as research scientists, chemical and mechanical engineers or software developers.
And, with the company employing 1,000 people alone in St. Charles Parish, the need is evident – getting the skilled workers ensures growth and stability for industry, as well as the community and the people it employs.
Dow has been involved with STEM for several years, but more recently stepped up efforts.
“If we can get kids interested and excited about STEM then we’ve done it right,” Tremblay said of filling the gap between Dow’s worker needs and the community’s ability to produce them.
This is why Dow promotes events like robotics and its “You Be The Chemist” challenges in Hahnville and Destrehan high schools, and its success reflects in students going to regional competitions and, hopefully, winning. There are also nearly 65 STEM ambassadors helping to make the connection with the classroom and a career.
Dow’s future growth relies on keeping the talent coming.“Success in creating a workforce fluent in STEM requires empowering STEM teachers and improving STEM education,” Tremblay said. “We just want to work together with the community to prepare those students for the workforce in our industry base.”
Dow’s “StemTheGap” education movement in 2014 offered successes, including strategic partnerships with organizations such as the Center for Science Teaching and Learning. Its strategy focuses on initiatives built on teach, learn, work and advocate in the U.S. and throughout the world. In the U.S., efforts are underway to train 100,000 STEM teachers by 2021 through the 100Kin10 effort of which Dow is a funding member and has grown to nearly 200 partners. The goal is to prepare students with high-quality STEM knowledge and skills for success in college and the workplace.
Harrison added it’s an economic driver for the river parishes.
“When we look at the growth in south Louisiana, we need more advances in STEM education to drive that growth in south Louisiana – and the world,” he said. “With Dow, it’s critical to that prosperity here in the region.”