To help strengthen the skills of Tampa Bay’s future workforce, St. Petersburg College will award $520,000 in scholarships through a National Science Foundation grant to academically talented and financially disadvantaged students who pursue degrees in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math.
The initiative will support students as they earn a degree and find employment in STEM fields. The grant will target women and minorities, who have been historically underrepresented in those areas. The program, called Tampa Bay SEEDS (Scholarships for Education & Employment Development in STEM) will also help fill a crucial gap in skilled workers in the Tampa Bay area, Florida and the United States.
“This grant demonstrates SPC’s deep commitment to accessible, learner-centered instruction and STEM education,” said President Bill Law. “The program will ensure a diverse applicant pool for potential STEM scholars at our college. It is very exciting for me personally because the project harmonizes with a student success initiative called The College Experience.”
Through the grant, students will engage in The College Experience by using integrated academic and career advising, tutoring centers, a project-specific orientation and career mentoring. Over the five-year grant, 80 students will be selected to take an employment-centered curriculum that includes job shadowing and internships. Students will work with newly created Campus Faculty Champions, who will give each student a “road map to graduation.” Using this road map, students will identify academic goals, determine which academic support services they need and investigate STEM careers.
“St. Petersburg College is to be commended on its efforts to help students achieve success through a higher education in STEM,” wrote Abdul Lateef, chief executive officer for local manufacturing firm Plasma-Therm, in a letter of support for the project. “This one project could have a lasting impact on the Tampa Bay region and help prepare future workers for high-demand careers in STEM.”
At the state level, Florida will need 120,000 new STEM workers by 2018, according to the Florida Department for Economic Opportunity. In addition, Enterprise Florida estimates that 15 out of the 20 fastest growing job fields in the state will require a STEM education.
Locally, a study commissioned in 2011 by the Tampa Bay Partnership projects that job growth in the high technology electronics and instruments industry and marine and environmental industries will grow by 10% by 2020, resulting in 22,000 new jobs. This report also notes there are 19 billion-dollar corporate headquarters in the Tampa Bay area, with four being Fortune 500 companies. Recently, several national technology companies have located facilities in the area and need an educated workforce with STEM skills.
“We are keenly aware of the worrisome shortage of new graduates entering the workforce in the STEM fields,” said Ed Peachey, president and CEO of CareerSource Pinellas. “We are pleased that as students in the Tampa Bay region look to transition to an institution of higher learning, they will find an abundance of STEM training and degree opportunities at St. Petersburg College. For years, SPC has demonstrated its commitment to STEM and to helping attract a diverse group of students.”
SPC will bring its prior experience with STEM scholarship programs to bear, since it has ten years’ experience with similar National Science Foundation grants and initiatives. For example, from 2007 to 2011, Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) were awarded to 152 students, exceeding the project’s goal of 100.
The $6,500 individual scholarships will be available beginning Spring 2015.