Hall C of Des Moines’ Hy-Vee Hall was a sea of citizens gathered to tackle the challenges to a Future Ready Iowa on April 19. Woven into the fabric of the event were many citations of the progress, programs and people who make up Iowa STEM. And for good reason—Iowa’s economic future depends on a steady stream of talent to drive vital economic sectors, including advanced manufacturing, bioscience in agriculture and medicine, information technology and finance.
In fact, the two topics STEM and Future Ready Iowa are so mutually dependent that rather than hold the customary spring STEM conference, the STEM Council’s interests and its members were deemed to be better served integrated into the broader discussion—and were they!
A rousing announcement by Governor Branstad as part of his opening remarks declared the STEM Council’s BEST® (Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers) model a priority for expansion across the state in the coming years. Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, co-chair of the STEM Council, followed with an information technology imperative for Iowa personified by Sioux City third grade coding prodigy Langston who embodies a bright Iowa future. Then, Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) Director Andreas Schleicher framed that future succinctly as, “Your school system today is your economy of tomorrow.”
Over the course of the six hours to follow, the compelling voices of STEM Council Co-Chair Dr. Chris Nelson and fellow STEM Council members Mark Putnam, Ryan Wise, Paul Schickler, Beth Townsend, Bill Ruud, Debi Durham, Jeff Weld and many more contributors to Iowa STEM past, present and, hopefully, future collectively issued a cautious optimism that our hard work is on course, yet more urgent than ever. Iowa STEM is very much about Future Ready Iowans.
A conference of community business and education leaders who wish to share and learn more about establishing and growing school+business partnerships like STEM BEST is planned for Wednesday, June 29. More information is available at www.iowastem.gov/school-business-conference.