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Governor Quinn Announces STEM-focused Education Initiative at 1871

Last Friday, September 14th Governor Quinn visited 1871 to announce an innovative $10.3 million public-private education initiative called Illinois Pathways, to better prepare our state’s students for today and tomorrow’s jobs.

What makes this initiative so unique is the unprecedented collaboration it represents from across education, industry, government, non-profits, and the entrepreneurial community to leverage our collective resources to advance science, technology, engineering and mathematics – or STEM – fields of study.   Governor Quinn - alongside State Superintendent Chris Koch, Rick Stephens with Boeing, two Wheeling high school students, and other business, education and civic leaders – announced funding for nine Learning Exchanges over three years, which each target a specific STEM sector.

These Learning Exchanges are public-private partnerships managed by selected organizations to coordinate investments and resources that will create more hands-on, real-world experiences for students, to enhance college and career readiness.  These nine learning exchanges target the key sectors of: Agriculture; Energy; Manufacturing; Information Technology; Architecture and Construction; Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics; Research and Development (R&D); Health Science; and Finance.

“Our mission is to prepare our students for the 21st Century workforce,” Governor Quinn said. “These new Learning Exchanges will provide students with real-world experience and advanced educational opportunities to ensure they are ready to compete for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Indeed, the focus on STEM education is critically important for Illinois and the United States to maintain its competitive edge.  A 2011 report by Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce found that Illinois will demand a total of 319,820 STEM jobs by 2018, which represents a 20 percent increase in STEM jobs between 2008 and 2018.  From corporate board rooms to classrooms, the need for more students educated in STEM related fields is profound.  Illinois Pathways aims to increase the production of STEM degrees and credentials in Illinois.

The Illinois Science & Technology Institute (ISTI), an affiliate of the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition, was selected to be the lead entity of the R&D Learning Exchange.  The ISTC, which is located in 1871, is a member-driven, non-profit organization that cultivates and attracts research and technology-based economic development in the state.  For the R&D Learning Exchange, the ISTI brought together schools, universities (like U of I, Northwestern, IIT and NIU), government, the non-profit sector, national laboratories, and industry (such as Northrup Grumman, Baxter, Astellas, and Eaton Corporation) to coordinate and facilitate meaningful R&D learning resources in school districts across the state.

STEM Coalition partners already develop and implement an array of creative programming, which have the potential to have an even greater impact through the Learning Exchange project.  A few examples: Northrop Grumman takes groups of teachers on a zero-gravity space flight where the teachers perform experiments designed by their students, providing STEM enrichment for both students and teachers.  Students enrolled in IIT’s Boeing Scholars Program are exposed to STEM fields through experiences such as spending time with scientists at Argonne National Laboratories.  For 40 years the Shedd Aquarium has been nurturing future conservators, scientists, and innovators through their programs for teens.  Programs such as these through the Illinois Pathways Learning Exchanges can help Illinois residents lead the 21st century global economy.

For more information on the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition / Institute and the STEM Learning Exchanges contact Erin Lane or visit   Read the press release and video of the event here.

About the Author

Mark Harris, President & CEO, Illinois Science & Technology Coalition)

Mark Harris has served as the President & CEO of the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition and Institute since June 2012.  He has more than a decade of experience working in government, economic development and higher education.  This includes serving as deputy chief of staff for the State of Illinois, working as associate director for the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and serving in senior positions at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).

Mark holds a BS from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and an MA from the University of Chicago. He is an appointee to the Illinois Smart Grid Advisory Council and Energy Foundry Board, serves on the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition Steering Committee and is a member of the City of Chicago's tech council ChicagoNEXT and the Economic Club of Chicago. Mark is Chilean-American and is fluent in Spanish.

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