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SySTEMic Solutions' public-private collaborations key to meeting workforce demands in Northern Virginia

Dr. Roger Ramsammy, provost of Northern Virginia Community College’s Manassas Campus, participates in a robotics demonstration by members of NOVA’s student robotics team. The team gave interactive demonstrations during a SySTEMic Solutions regional launch on May 22, 2013, at Micron Technology Inc. in Manassas.

More than 150 leaders from government, education and Northern Virginia’s business community convened at Micron Technology Inc. in Manassas today to support the regional expansion of SySTEMic Solutions---a program aimed at recruiting students into the career fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

What started as Northern Virginia Community College’s (NOVA) initiative in the Prince William region, SySTEMic Solutions has become a public-private partnership spanning into Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun Counties.

The program brings educational and career exploration opportunities to elementary, middle- and high-school students. For example, high school students can participate in robotics competitions, take field trips to partnering businesses, job shadow STEM professionals and use internships to develop industry-specific skills.

With hundreds of thousands of job openings in STEM fields projected for the region through 2020, SySTEMic Solutions works with schools and businesses to create a sustainable pipeline of students to enter higher education and eventually meet STEM workforce demands.

Virginia’s Secretary of Education Laura Fornash lauded SySTEMIC Solutions’ model and said businesses and educators must work to get students excited about jobs in STEM fields.

“Business and industry are telling us that the jobs of today and tomorrow are in the STEM-H fields,” Fornash said. “We must ensure that K-12, higher education and business and industry are all working together to prepare our young people for the top jobs of the 21st Century. SySTEMic Solutions is a prime example of the successful public-private partnerships we are looking to replicate throughout the Commonwealth.”

Having reached 4,000 K-12 students in the Prince William region, SySTEMic Solutions is projected to reach 40,000 students in four counties by 2016. Virginia’s General Assembly awarded the program a two-year, $1 million grant in 2012 for expansion, however, more than $5 million is required to support STEM education and career efforts during the next three years.

Four local chambers of commerce in Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties and the Prince William region, as well as the Northern Virginia Technology Council, have signed resolutions of support and cooperation with SySTEMic Solutions. These resolutions pledge volunteer support in schools and at technology-based competitions, business engagement in technical education and career exploration opportunities for students.

George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis forecasts that by 2020, there will be more than 600,000 job vacancies in Northern Virginia, the majority of which will require post-secondary certification or an associate degree. Almost 50 percent of the new and replacement jobs will be for mid-tier workers in professional, scientific and technical fields.

Jim Corcoran, the CEO for the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, spoke on behalf of the four chambers. Corcoran stressed the importance of having STEM-educated employees available regionally.

“The number one, fundamental issue we need to address is who is going to fill these jobs,” Corcoran said. “This is the beginning step for businesses to get involved.”  

Micron Technology hosted today’s regional launch for SySTEMic Solutions and the company also announced a financial contribution to the program for 2013.

“Micron and the Micron Foundation are proud to have been there with SySTEMic Solutions since its inception.  This is a win-win for business and education,” said Raj Narasimhan, the site director for Micron Technology. “Public-private partnerships are essential and building programs like this will enable our goal. In addition to our seed funding and annual support since the inception, for this year we have committed a support of $120,000 for SySTEMic Solutions programs.”

Troy Cromwell, group vice president of government and education for Verizon Enterprise Solutions, invited local business leaders to invest in building the STEM workforce pipeline. He used Verizon’s current need for technical workers as an example of the region’s overall workforce demands.

“STEM sounds like something it might be difficult to get [into]. It sounds like a teacher problem,” Cromwell said. “It is not. It is an education problem and together we can solve it.”  

NOVA President Dr. Robert G. Templin Jr. explained that given regional workforce trends, front-line tech-savvy employees have to be in Northern Virginia. He noted that SySTEMic Solutions is drawing previously uninterested students into STEM studies through offerings such as the popular, summer robotics camps.  

“We have every major school division in Northern Virginia engaged in this process now,” Templin said. “This effort that we have is voraciously of interest to our students.”  

Templin explained how businesses can choose from a menu of different ways to get involved in SySTEMic Solutions. This includes the need for 700 volunteers to assist in local school systems, companies to host industry site visits, mentors for competitive robotics teams and 250 internships for college students.

Business leaders interested in learning more about collaborative opportunities are invited to contact SySTEMic Solutions:

Director, SySTEMic Solutions: Amy Harris | 703.257.6689 | AHarris@nvcc.edu

Media Contact: Corey Byers | 703.425.5847 | CByers@nvcc.edu

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.