STEP, the Strategic Twin-Counties Education Partnership, recently hosted a series of Lunch with an Engineer with area high school students.
STEP is an educational nonprofit group whose mission is to help create a talent pipeline through collaboration within public schools, community colleges and employee sectors. STEP has been in existence since 2012.
This particular project involved bringing in engineers from participating businesses; they had lunch with selected students and were able to answer any industry questions.
“We want kids to think like engineers — be inquisitive, a team player and a problem solver,” Executive Director Pam Gould said.
Gould said the organization focuses on advanced manufacturing and engineering in the fall and health care in the spring for the Lunch and Learns.
STEP has hosted six schools across both Nash and Edgecombe counties, including Tarboro, North Edgecombe, South West, Rocky Mount, Northern Nash and Nash Central high schools.
“We like to keep it casual with no presentations but with conversations. Kids will talk in a small group,” Gould said.
Career Development Coordinator Dawn Cuthrell said that students were selected based on their interest and course selection. She mentioned the mini career cluster showcases held at the community college as a way students can learn about engineering programs.
“We need people to know that there are jobs right here; you don’t have to move away from here to get a good job,” Mike Johnson of Edgecombe–Martin EMC said.
Tenth-grader Macala Rogers learned that “there is opportunity in Tarboro.”
Gould echoed Johnson’s sentiment, stating that STEM’s role is to educate and make schools aware of the business opportunities in this area.
Participating businesses who sent engineers included ABB, Appian Consulting Engineers, Pfizer, Edwards Inc., Edgecombe–Martin EMC, Encore Technology and a welding instructor from the community college.
In addition to the lunches with engineers, STEP also hosts a Twin Counties STEM Design Challenge for middle schoolers. Each school is sponsored by an industry, and students collaborate on a design project. There is also a literacy component as the students have books to read in the fall prior to working on the design itself.
The final event will be held April 3 at the Rocky Mount Event Center. Participants will receive a STEM scholarship for the summer camps at the community college.