One of the most interesting quotes I have heard recently came from Curtis Thomas, director of government and public affairs for BP America.
The company is gearing up for oil and gas exploration in the Marcellus and Utica shale fields in the area. Thomas recently relocated to the area to help organize information as the shale play develops.
His quote from October was, "It's no secret it's an aging work force" in the area.
That's why the company is providing $50,000 for the Defined STEM program in the county. Teachers were introduced to the new program during half-day training sessions Wednesday at the Trumbull County Educational Service Center.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
He said one reason BP got involved in the two-year program is because it is interested in training the next generation of workers, including engineers, scientists and geologists, professions which BP is looking to hire with the advancement of the oil and gas industry.
That says a lot about what BP America anticipates developing in the area in the years to come. To promote education of pupils as young as the fourth grade in the skill set needed in the oil and gas industry sounds a lot like an area's sports teams. To build a good program, you have to begin young and feed the process as the pupils mature.
The program is available to 20,000 students in grades four through 12 in Trumbull County's public school districts.
Jim Houck, senior consultant for Pecchia Communications, the firm rolling out the program, said of BP America, "It was something that (BP) wanted to fund. TCS (Trumbull County Schools) had identified this program as one that they need."
The web-based program offers teachers access to activities in a variety of subjects, including math, science, social studies, language arts, engineering, technology, career clusters and visual arts. It involves a partnership between BP, TCESC and the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber. It was launched with assistance from the Eastern Ohio P-16 (Partnership for Education) Initiative and funded by BP's investment.
The subjects in the STEM program are presented in a way to reinforce critical thinking as well as highlight their relevance to students with regard to career paths, according to Defined STEM trainer Dave Reese.
The subjects are presented in four ways: video connections, student products, performance tasks and literacy tasks.
BP has no influence on the curriculum. It just provides the funds for Trumbull County Schools to license the software for two years, training 200 teachers, and help cover costs of substitutes while teachers are being trained.
At the end of the two-year subscription, BP and Trumbull County Schools officials will evaluate the progress the program has made and its impact on students to determine whether the program will be continued. BP will receive progress reports from TCESC regarding who is utilizing the program, what aspects of the program they are concentrating on and how often.
Thomas said, "It was a great opportunity for BP to explain ... the importance we put on education and how important it is for us to be a part of the fabric of the community."
A $50,000 check to help acquaint students with the work force of the future is a good way to start. It's a win-win. I hope it's just the beginning of a long-term commitment by BP America and a sign of good things to come.