Mid-Tennessee District Courts Businesses For STEM Partnerships

Businesses everywhere are taking a stronger interest in public education, and in Tennessee, the business community was nudged by Williamson County Schools Director Mike Looney to move forward on partnerships aimed at career development in classrooms. Looney believes that their success can lead to “real-world digital learning tools for all our learners”.

Speaking about the public school system and its successes to the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce, Looney made a plea for businesses to help prepare students directly. Last year’s graduates from the public school system earned $112 million in scholarships, and Williamson County Schools is among the highest districts nationally in ACT scores, as noted by Looney in his speech. The chamber has been actively trying to boost interest in information technology careers, and it created the Williamson Technology Advisory Board in the fall of 2010, consisting of teachers, administrators and local business leaders with a hope of filling the void of skilled workers in such technology fields as networking and programming.

“It is important first and foremost from a talent standpoint. This initiative with WCS helps fill the IT talent pool on a long-term basis,” said Matt Largen, president and CEO of the county chamber. “Our growth and future is tied directly to the kind of talent we are able to attract and grow in Williamson County and in Tennessee. We know there is a deficit in the IT workforce in Middle Tennessee, and this initiative — along with others in partnership with Columbia State, the Nashville Software School, the Nashville Technology Council and the Nashville chamber — will help ensure that we have the kind of workers that will allow our companies to grow.”

As reported by Maria Giordano of The Tennessean, at Summit High School, students already participate in an annual tech conference with a goal of giving a rise in the number of students enrolled in two- or four-year advanced-degree programs in the field of technology, and those enrolled in technology-related courses in high school.

“Our success, in part, is contingent upon our ability to provide real-world digital learning tools for all our learners,” Looney said. “The chamber’s initiative will go a long way toward helping us with this endeavor.”

Tech-related courses in county high schools, offered through the district’s Career and Technical Education program, include broadcasting, digital arts, IT foundations, programming and networking.

“We’re definitely moving the needle,” Largen said. “We have more work to do, but it’s taken a few years for the marketing to take hold.”

The chamber continues to beat the drum for more businesses to join its cause, as well as continuing its efforts on the tech front.

“This is certainly broader, Largen said, “and the hope is to foster spontaneous partnerships, connecting the strongest school system in the state with the most vibrant economic system in the state.”