STEM West advocates and supports the alignment of educational and occupational objectives through the regional workforce and community partnerships.
STEM West began as a partnership between a Catawba County teacher and The Science House of NC State University. This partnership resulted in over a million dollars in grants. Participation in these grants led to further partnerships across the state, especially with STEM East (www.stemeast.org).
In November of 2013, the first STEM West meeting was held. In attendance were a variety of community members: school administrators, government officials, business owners and operators, teachers, higher education, community colleges, science centers, non-profit organizations, and interested citizens. Dr. Sam Houston, CEO of the Science, Mathematics, & Technology Center of the Research Triangle, set forth the challenge to shape STEM West into an organization dedicated to creating a positive influence on not only STEM Education but also the workforce and economic development of western NC.
After the creation of an advisory board and several essential community meetings, the mission statement and initiatives of STEM West came to fruition. A pilot grant from the Institute of Emerging Issues paved the way for the first initiatives of the organization through partnering teachers with local STEM businesses to create and implement real-world project-based learning (PBL) units for the classroom. On March 1st, 2016, STEM West became part of the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG). This officially made STEM West the representative educational arm of Workforce Development. The initial funding was granted by the Duke Energy Foundation for the first two years, along with additional funds from the NC Community Foundation (Biogen) and the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund.
After three years of an impactful partnership with WPCOG, STEM West received its non-profit status and created official partnerships with school districts in the following counties: Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, McDowell, Polk, & Rutherford. Funding from these districts, local businesses, and grant foundations continue to support the work of STEM West.
“The community and business are symbiotic. STEM is the glue that keeps business, especially manufacturing, and the community joined.”
— C. John Wiley (President, Concept Frames, Inc./Newton)