Northern Virginia boasts job growth, innovation, entrepreneurship and a talent pipeline that fortify Virginia's status as the top state for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) employment. Yet there are grave concerns voiced by industry leaders and educators about the shortage of STEM professionals as being a threat to not only Virginia's economic status, but also the nation's. In response, Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) started "SySTEMic Solutions" in 2008 to fuel the STEM workforce pipeline.
The SySTEMic Solutions program harnesses collaborative support from partnerships with area schools, chambers of commerce, technology corporations such as Micron, Aerojet Rocketdyne and BAE Systems, and the Northern Virginia Technology Council. Their goal is to offer an influx of 40,000 students pursuing STEM fields by 2016.
After five years SySTEMic Solutions continues to be popular with the NOVA community. Furthermore, the State has sustained its financial support and SySTEMic Solutions has expanded to additional locations with more classes. Recently, NVCC's SySTEMic Solutions was honored with the Governor's Award for Innovative Science by Governor Terry McCauliffe. He lauded NVCC for "creativity, contributions and dedication (that) are making Virginia a worldwide leader in STEM."
Much of the success is also due to individual contributions. For example, teachers participate in professional development programs and workshops, serve on panels and sponsor STEM clubs in their schools; industry professionals judge competitions, lead worksite visits and mentor interns; parents volunteer at STEM camps, register their students for courses and provide encouragement; and even students contribute by promoting STEM on social media. Altogether, this support gives students in and around the communities of Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William Counties golden opportunities to enter and achieve in the world of STEM.
The opportunities begin in elementary school with introductory science and robotics activities and competitions. Support expands through high school, when students can take part in STEM clubs, team robotics expositions, college credit STEM academies, internships and other career development options such as job shadowing and site visits, and summer camps that develop capabilities in innovative technology.
For the summer of 2014, camps will be expanded to a variety of sites in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William Counties. Topics include Robotics, Rocketry and Science Investigation. Registration is currently open.