STEM and career, and technical education pathways in Delaware are getting a major boost from a unique public-private partnership involving chemical giant DuPont.
The new alliance, which comprises the Delaware Department of Education, DuPont and Discovery Education, will provide the state’s students with a wealth of new STEM instructional materials and enhanced CTE programs under the Delaware Pathways skills initiative.
“Connecting what is being taught in the classroom to Delaware employers is critical,” said Luke Rhine, director of the career and technical education and STEM initiatives at the Delaware Department of Education. “The resources provided through this partnership will support middle school and high school teachers as they build bridges between classrooms and careers for all students.
DuPont, which is headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, will fully fund the initiative by district access to Discovery Education’s K-12 learning platform. The state’s educators will also participate in ongoing professional development and one-on-one coaching to guide them in maximizing the use of Discovery’s platform and connecting with other educators.
A key goal of the initiative is to start getting students focused on potential careers by letting them participate in work-based learning in middle school. This helps them begin to connect instruction to career aspiration as they develop skills for teamwork, networking, leadership and other workplace essentials, Rhine says.
As an introduction to the workplace, students can first take virtual internships that are not limited to a school’s hometown. “If the last year and a half has taught us anything, it’s that there is no geographic barrier to our ability to place people into career paths outside the state,” Rhine says.
Another goal is to help high-schoolers develop a clearer picture of their career goals and take critical courses, such as fundamental anatomy or health science before they graduate, adds Karen Beerer, Discovery Education’s senior vice president of teaching and learning. “As students get into high school, we need to do more to expose them to the real world of careers,” she says. “Going to a four-year college to decide what you want to do is very expensive today.”
In backing the three-year initiative, DuPont has become the newest member of a national industry partnership, the STEM Careers Coalition, as the company promotes access to STEM and CTE and works to create a more diverse talent pool for the workforce, says Dan Turner, DuPont’s reputation and media relations leader in its Corporate Communications department.
“I think the partnership provides an excellent blueprint for how the public and private sectors can partner to ensure we are properly preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s careers,” Turner says. “Each entity in our partnership brings unique knowledge, talents and resources to this collaboration, and, through constant communication, we are able best understand each other’s needs and goals.”