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Kids and parents check out the SynDaver model used in anatomy and physiology classes at Hawkeye Community College during the Cedar Valley Family STEM Festival Nov. 7 in Waterloo.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) has made significant strides in Northeast Iowa and throughout the state. We are equipping more students each day with an understanding of STEM and the opportunities that are available inside and outside of the classroom.

The Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council (STEM Council) began in 2011 to raise awareness and interest in STEM education across the state. One of our primary goals is to help provide students with the tools and training necessary to create a skilled workforce to spark economic growth. The STEM Council created six STEM regions to implement STEM programming throughout the state. As the Northeast Regional STEM manager for the STEM Council, I work with a number of community and business partners to help students explore STEM opportunities and careers.

The STEM Council offers a variety of programs that promote STEM education, all of which are utilized throughout Northeast Iowa. We’ve doubled the number of STEM BEST (Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers) school recipients in our region since the program’s inception. Two schools received the grant and title in 2016, and it was announced mid-October that Cedar Falls, Oelwein, Turkey Valley and Riceville Community Schools are to be among the 19 STEM BEST partners for 2017.

Through the Iowa STEM scale-up programming, we expect to train nearly 400 educators before the end of 2017, impacting roughly 14,700 students in Northeast Iowa. This past summer, our local businesses opened their doors to more teachers through the Iowa STEM Teacher Externship Program.

These examples of excellent programming, school-business partnerships and unique professional development are happening across our state, thanks to the STEM Council and through the support from the Iowa Legislature and the commitment of our educators and community partners. The Northeast region is proud to be pushing the needle forward and bringing more organizations on board to engage with STEM. We have embraced the goal of Future Ready Iowa to have 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce educated or trained beyond high school by 2025, and have come to understand the important role that STEM education will play in achieving that goal.

As we enter into our seventh year, I am seeing the power that cultivates as teachers, administrators, business partners, government officials and most importantly students come together. We can change the economic and educational future of Iowa through STEM; it’s an exciting time to be a young person in our state.

Reach out to learn more or to partner with STEM by visiting www.neiowastem.com.

Jeff Beneke is the Northeast Regional STEM manager of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council and is based at the University of Northern Iowa. He can be reached at Jeff.Beneke@uni.edu or 273-7397.

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