UINON COUNTY — The most important challenge a high school student will face is what to do after graduation and how they will be prepared for and make the transition to the adult world and successfully take advantage of the educational and/or professional opportunities it offers.
Helping high school students successfully address that challenge is the goal of STEM Premiere, an online platform that provides teenagers with the means to help them make the transition from high school to college and/or the workplace.
STEM Premiere was the subject of a program presented to UCHS students Wednesday morning in the school gymnatorium. The speakers included James A. Richter, Executive Director of SC Future Makers and Director of Workforce Development & Member Relations for the South Carolina Manufacturing Alliance; Shea Tighe, National Director of Engagement for STEM Premiere; Frank R. Hatten, Strategy and Integration Education Relations Specialist for Boeing South Carolina; Tommy Preston Jr., Director of National Strategy & Engagement for Boeing; John N. Robbins, Human Resources Manager for Timken — Tyger River Plant; and Union County School District Superintendent Dr. William Roach.
Hatten, Preston, and Robbins spoke about the career opportunities their companies are providing and will continue to provide, opportunities they said UCHS students, like their counterparts across the state and beyond, can take advantage of, but only if they are prepared to do so.
In his presentation, Hatten pointed out that Boeing’s facility in North Charleston already employs approximately 8,000 people, a number that will likely grow in the future, creating more jobs and increasing demand for workers to fill them.
“We want to hire people from South Carolina,” Hatten said. “But you have to be prepared for these opportunities, opportunities that can change your life, your family’s, and your community for the better.”
Hatten added that Boeing is not alone in creating such career opportunities. He pointed out that South Carolina is now an “advanced manufacturing state” with many companies creating well-paying jobs needing workers to fill them.
Robbins pointed out that Timken has more than 14,000 employees in 28 countries including 250 employees in Union County. He said the company is hiring and he urged the students to take advantage of opportunities to make themselves marketable to employers like Timken who are growing and looking for young people to fill the jobs they are creating.
Helping students market themselves to potential employers and/or institutions of higher learning is what STEM Provider does.
Richter and Tighe explained that STEM Premier is a free online platform that connects students 13 years of age and older to colleges, companies, and organizations looking to connect with the next generation of talent in STEM and other fields. They said that students who sign up with STEM Premiere build digital portfolios showcasing their skills and talents, and get directly connected to opportunities in higher education and the workforce. They described it as a “virtual hub” that brings everyone together. Once students create profiles on the STEM Premier platform, tours of facilities and guest speakers are organized to align with the indicated career interests to showcase the pathways to earn employment opportunities in those fields.
Richter and Tighe stressed that STEM Premiere is different from social media, describing it a “closed circuit” in which the student “builds their brand,” listing information about their GPAs, grades, interests, experience, accomplishments, and goals in order to let interested parties know this is who they are and where they want to go. They said it functions as an online resume — which can also be printed off if needed — that can enable companies to identify the student as someone who can fill the job openings they have and notify them of their interest.
In addition, Richter and Tighe pointed out that the platform includes a scholarship component called Red Kite. They said that Red Kite reviews the information a student puts on the platform and then searches through scholarships programs from across the country to determine which ones the student would be eligible for. It then provides the student with information about those scholarships.
Wednesday’s presentation concluded with an address by Roach, who told the students it is up to them to take advanage of the opportunities being offered them by the school district, by STEM Premiere and by companies like Boeing and Timken.
“You are being given many great opportunities, but it is ultimately up to you and how you respond to those opportunities. You have lots of people who are here to support you,” Roach said. “One of my life quotes is ‘Hard Work Pays Off.’ I truly believe that statement and if you are willing you can accomplish anything. You just have to put your mind to it.”
A number of students did just that following the program. In a statement released Thursday, Richter said that approximately 200 UCHS students created profiles. They are now among the more than 37,000 students in South Carolina who have created profiles through the STEM Premiere platform and UCHS is now one of the 100 high schools in the state to have partnered with the organization.
Richter said Thursday that students interested in learning more about STEM Premiere and/or creating their own profiles can go to scfuturemakers.com or stempremiere.com.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.