In fulfillment of its mission to attract and retain a talented workforce and in service to its community, the Greater Oak Brook Economic Development Partnership and its Talented Workforce Committee developed the STEM Bridge Partnership Program in 2016. A unique “near peer” mentoring program led by some of the area’s young business leaders employed in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers, the program inspires at-risk high school students to explore STEM careers. It peaks their interest in STEM careers by providing opportunities to students to experience hands-on, work related activities in a real place of work, while also stressing the importance of career-readiness skills for future success.
The unique features of the Greater Oak Brook Economic Development Partnership’s STEM Bridge program are:
- Corporate perspective and impact on curricular development
- Focus on career-readiness skills
- “Near peer” impact between mentors and mentees
- Hands-on, work-related activities to inspire students
- Young professional leadership opportunities
- Young students as future community ambassadors
Under the guidance of the Steering Committee led by BCS Financial's Susan Lindquist and DuPage Regional Office of Education's Dr. Mary Biniewicz and after training aligned to the standards of the National Mentoring Partnership, two pilot projects were developed. Over a two-month period in the spring of 2017, forty students from the economically and culturally diverse Willowbrook High School participated in hands-on simulations of actual projects the young professionals employed in local companies were actually working on.
Read more about the Math in Marketing project here.
Learn more about the Architecture/Engineering program here.
Prior to the onset of the program, students completed pre-assessments to determine their understanding of and interests in pursing STEM careers as well as the impact of mastery of career-readiness skills to their future success. Based upon the recommendations of U.S. Chamber of Commerce, each week skills such as collaboration, communication, innovation, planning, and evaluation were stressed by our “near-peer” mentors. Through continuously sharing their personal stories from the workplace, students learned that success and failures were very dependent on non-technical skills. The narrow age gap between the mentors and the high schoolers makes them more relatable, providing a bridge to greater impact in their lessons. Student responses post-program indicated significant improvement in appreciation for the six identified career readiness skills that will be necessary for their own professional success.
Currently projects for 2018-2019 are being reviewed to promote additional STEM career areas as well as the potential to expand beyond these sectors to further support the Greater Oak Brook Chamber’s business community’s needs for talent.