East Hawaii News

Governor Ige Announces $6.8M for STEM Jobs

January 8, 2016, 1:20 PM HST
* Updated January 8, 1:09 PM
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A state-wide initiative that will involve education, industry, and nonprofit sectors was announced by Governor David Ige on Friday. The initiative will provide $6.8 million from nonprofit USA Funds to strengthen Hawai’i’s innovation economy and workforce, as well as expand education and employment opportunities for state residents.

The project will reach towards enhancing and diversifying Hawai’i’s economy, prepare residents for high-paying jobs in science, technology, engineering and math fields; strengthen teaching and learning of STEM subjects, and address Hawai’i’s “brain drain” of talent to the mainland, according to state officials.

“This initiative will help prepare our students for careers in fast-growing segments of our state’s economy and expand high-quality employment opportunities for our residents,” Governor Ige said. “I deeply appreciate the private sector’s investment in Hawai’i’s students, teachers and the University of Hawai’i. The investment will further build the state’s innovation economy and workforce.”

Since 1979, USA Funds has worked with state government and higher education institutions within the state. Now, the organization is awarding funds to keep its focus on promoting student success in college and in careers.

“This transformative initiative will help ensure Hawai’i is able to create and attract the jobs of the future and fill these jobs with in-state talent,” said William D. Hansen, USA Funds president and chief executive officer. “Consistent with USA Funds’ focus on college completion with a purpose, this partnership will link student success in education to rewarding and fulfilling careers following graduation, while enhancing the state’s overall economic vitality.”

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Officials say $2.2 million of the funding, under Project Lead The Way, will help at least 48 high schools in the state implement programs in computer science, engineering, or biomedical science.

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The first group of high schools will be announced by the end of January after being selected through a competitive process.

“Project Lead The Way currently partners with 30 schools in six complex areas in Hawai’i to deliver transformative learning experiences for students and teachers,” said Dr. Vince Bertram, PLTW president and chief executive officer. “Today, Project Lead The Way is honored to expand our partnership with schools in Hawai‘i to empower more students with the knowledge and skills that will help them thrive in our evolving world.”

Professional development support to teachers and efforts with local partners to ensure materials and programs are culturally relevant will also be provided by Project Lead The Way as part of the initiative.

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The University of Hawai’i will receive $4.6 million from USA Funds to support a mutli-faceted economic and workforce development initiative over a two-year period.

Under the initiative, the following would be included:

  • Promoting government, industry, and education collaboration to determine current and future STEM workforce needs.
  • Creating a continuous academic pathway in STEM fields through college.
  • Supporting economic development and high-quality job creation through just-in-time workforce development.
  • Improving information available to help students select the best path through education to STEM careers and help policymakers and educators better assess the outcomes of education and training programs.

UH will also establish a STEM Center of Excellence to assist in coordinating STEM-related activities state-wide.

“Hawai’i’s centralized K-12 and higher education systems, which already work together closely, provide us with a unique opportunity to model for the nation how to use complex data and collaborate with business and government to understand and meet current and emerging workforce needs for an entire state,” said UH President David Lassner. “This initiative will prepare our students so that they have the skills and expertise our state needs in high-wage and high-demand STEM fields. We are most grateful to USA Funds for its innovative vision and very generous investment in Hawai’i’s students and our workforce.”

The newly introduced program hopes to advance the Hawai’i Innovation Initiative, a public-private partnership to build a thriving innovation economy in the state and create living-wage jobs, and the Hawai‘i Graduation Initiative, which aims to increase higher education opportunities and college completion, especially among Native Hawaiians and students from low-income households.

It is expected that by 2017, Hawai’i will need 16,000 more workers who have STEM skills each year. Currently, the state ranks 47th among states in the number of STEM-related degrees awarded per 100,000 residents.

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