STEM Quality Pre-Apprenticeships to stoke Iowa's workforce pipeline  

At a recent Governor's press conference, Boone High School Junior Jake Gourley attested that he and his peers stand to gain valuable job skills and a competitive hiring advantage through Quality Pre-Apprenticeships while in high school. [Image from Radio Iowa]

For the majority of Iowans who did not enjoy an apprenticeship enroute to employment, the concept might conjure memories of Johnny Tremain from high school history class. Yet, unlike Johnny's silversmith apprenticeship, modern Quality Pre-Apprenticeships unfolding through a grant to four STEM BEST® school-business partners will be safe, high quality, collaborative learning experiences in high-demand employment sectors.
Last fall, Iowa Workforce Development won a $1.8 million ApprenticeshipUSA State Expansion grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, inviting the STEM Council to cultivate Quality Pre-Apprenticeship sites through a $200,000 subaward. An internal competition open to the 18 current STEM BEST models across the state set the stage for Boone High School, Muscatine High School in cooperation with Muscatine Community College (MCC), Spencer High School and Waukee's APEX (Aspiring Professional Experience) to pioneer and, then, showcase their models for Quality Pre-Apprenticeships to other communities throughout Iowa.
Boone's model will build on its current high school work-based learning experience by offering semester-length, project-based opportunities initially in plumbing and electrical fields through the School Career Connections and vocational rehabilitation programs, as well as through partnerships with Kruck Plumbing & Heating Co. and ABC of Iowa Apprenticeship & Training Trust.
Muscatine High School with MCC will build Quality Pre-Apprenticeships through their Manufacturing and Culinary Arts Academies, leading to certificates in electronics and in culinary arts working with Chef Brad Scott for the culinary pathway and companies HNI and Allsteel for the manufacturing pathway.
Spencer High School's Quality Pre-Apprenticeships will be Construction Extended Career Experiences whereby students receive on-the-job training toward OSHA certification in concert with skills acquisition, working with Milford Electric and Midwestern Mechanical partners.
And, Waukee APEX Quality Pre-Apprenticeships will accord high school seniors the opportunity to build upon courses in manufacturing, construction and technology fields, working with MidAmerican Energy, The Weitz Company, Master Builders of Iowa, Neumann Brothers Construction, Remodelworks, Pillar, LightEdge Solutions and Accumold.
More complete descriptions of these innovative educational models and their 14 STEM BEST peers are available at
April 1, 2017
North Central Family STEM Festival
10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Forest City, IA
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April 4, 2017
South Central Family STEM Festival
6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Des Moines, IA
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April 11, 2017
Southwest Family STEM Festival
5:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Villisca, IA
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April 13, 2017
Northeast Family STEM Festival
4:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Decorah, IA
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April 22, 2017
Northeast Family STEM Festival
10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Dubuque, IA
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April 22, 2017
Southeast Family STEM Festival
10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Burlington, IA
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April 27, 2017
Southwest Family STEM Festival
5:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Oakland, IA
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June 21, 2017
"Fast Track Iowa's Future" Summit
9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Iowa STEM Operations Center
University of Northern Iowa
214 East Bartlett
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0298
PHONE 319-273-2959

National Science Foundation funded state STEM evaluation wraps up
As the first of its kind, a $1.2 million National Science Foundation grant funded the development of a replicable, statewide STEM evaluation model in Iowa. Now in its final stages, one of its deliverables is this Professional Network Analysis of key Iowa STEM contributors.
When the National Science Foundation (NSF) issued a request for proposals from across the country for states to compete for funds to design an evaluation system for STEM, the STEM Council was just a year into operation and poised to be the laboratory rat for other statewide STEM initiatives. The breadth of Iowa's STEM program combined with its independent evaluation triad earned the NSF's trust to be a "first-of-its-kind," and in May 2013, awarded $1.2 million to design and pilot assessment strategies other states could replicate.
A unique collaboration of independent research centers at Iowa's three Regents universities was assembled to execute the four-year project titled, "Iowa STEM Education Evaluation (I-SEE)," a model statewide STEM education evaluation program.
The I-SEE grant project is now in its final stages of monitoring and refining Iowa's system to create a replicable, statewide evaluation model and inform other states on best practices in STEM evaluation. A team of researchers and student staff at the University of Northern Iowa's Center for Social and Behavioral Research (CSBR), Iowa State University's Research Institute for Studies in Education (RISE) and the University of Iowa's Center for Evaluation and Assessment (CEA) have made tremendous progress, including these main deliverables:
Statewide STEM Evaluation Model
This model attempts to define the people, resources and inputs that are key to a successful statewide STEM initiative by identifying the important steps to follow in an evaluation of a statewide STEM initiative. The focus is on the method with a culmination in a "how to" model for other states to use.
Professional Network Analysis
This analysis helps map the growth of STEM advocates in the state since the initiative was established in 2011, equipping the STEM Council with the ability to assess both the reach and depth of the STEM network and identify areas of the state that lack strong advocates.
A new website - - aims to be a statewide portal to inventory and identify local STEM opportunities, including STEM events, camps, programs and more. Users of the website may submit information about STEM-related content and events they know about or lead, or they can browse the information to learn more about STEM opportunities and resources across Iowa. Visit to get started.
As the grant project nears its conclusion, the I-SEE collaboration continues to work on a final evaluation of, further definition of the Iowa STEM professional network and the final version of Iowa's statewide STEM model. The team will submit a final report later this summer. I-SEE was funded by the National Science Foundation Mathematics and Science Partnership grant program, number DRL-1238211.
Legislature processing computer science bill

The STEM Council developed a Computer Science Matrix for Iowa that lists a representative sampling of computer science opportunities available to educators.
Programming enthusiasts are watching the Iowa legislature, hoping they boot up a Computer Science bill (SF274) this session, but it will come down to a binary up or down before long.
The bill inspired by the STEM Council's Computer Science working group recommendations calls for developing high-quality K-12 computer science standards, providing a teaching endorsement in computer science and incentivizing voluntary professional development and implementation for schools that offer computer science classes. If successful, Iowa will join 30 other states in the U.S. that have adopted statewide CS standards or passed policies to make computer science count for high school graduation credit.
And, getting access to computer science offerings just got easier thanks to a recently compiled Computer Science Matrix of some of the best computer science available, developed by the STEM operations team. Although not an exhaustive list, the matrix serves as a starting point for educators teaching varying grade levels to find computer science programs or activities for their students.
The inspiration for Iowa's Computer Science Matrix is Rhode Island's CS4RI with the idea of gathering a list of high-quality computer science programs known to exist in Iowa and presenting the tool to Iowa educators desiring pathways to these programs.
Presently, the STEM Council also provides ways for youth to engage in computer science through Code Iowa, Microsoft Imagine Academy, as well as with STEM Scale-Up Programs, such as HyperStream and Project Lead The Way's Introduction to Computer Science in schools now.
For today's young Iowans, the wait for computer science can seem like an infinite loop, but nodes and networks for accessing computer science are creating a dense topology across the state. Inevitably, Iowa students will have more and more opportunities to consume AND create technology, helping bring awareness and introduce the skills needed for some of the most critical STEM jobs for Iowa's future. Citizens may monitor the progress of SF274 here:

Family STEM festivals connect communities

The Linn County STEM Festival, one of dozens happening this year across Iowa and powered by local STEM supporters, captivated nearly 900 Iowans last month with STEM opportunities and garnered greater STEM awareness. The University of Iowa's texting and driving simulator (pictured above) showed how technology can be used to educate the public on real-world issues.
A robust statewide STEM effort requires the support of all Iowans from parents, students and educators to city leaders, higher education experts and business and industry professionals. Creating an avenue for this wide array of audiences to intersect and collaborate on STEM is one mission of the STEM Council.
Facilitated by the STEM Council's six regional STEM managers, such community partnerships percolate through dozens of family STEM festivals throughout the STEM regions. The original charge from the STEM Council was to host at least one free festival in each STEM region per year, rotating it from one community to the next in the following years. This, however, has erupted into a larger demand throughout the STEM regions as evidenced by the nearly 30 festivals across Iowa last year that attracted more than 16,000 people.
Take, for example, the Linn County STEM Festival in Hiawatha, Iowa, in late February. Almost 900 people visited the event from nearly 40 different ZIP codes, drawing in equal participation from both females and males with more than 60 percent as K-12 students. And, with the help of 51 exhibiting partners from higher education, business and industry, non-profit, K-12 schools and more, hundreds of families now have a stronger sense for the importance of STEM, along with newly-forged alliances with the organizations in their backyards that offer local pathways to STEM.
These family STEM festivals are happening through spring and beyond. Find them across Iowa by looking at our STEM calendar or selecting your STEM region and clicking on their website for a list.