News Oct 12, 2018

Together We Are Better, Strategic Client Partnering in STEM

A collaboration between Jacobs, the Dow Chemical Company and the Smithsonian Science Education Center brings STEM education to local communities

In Sept. 2018, Lake Jackson, Texas, was home to a two-day Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education forum as part of a years’ worth of enrichment activities designed by the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC). The forum followed a six-day, professional development experience, the Smithsonian Science Education Academies for Teachers (SSEATs), part of the Smithsonian Institution, that brought 38 educators from eight states (10 of which were from Texas) together in Washington, D.C. to advance their STEM teaching practices. 

Since 2007, our client, The Dow Chemical Company, has supported more than 310 teachers through its collaboration with the SSEC. For the last three years, CH2M, now Jacobs, has been involved as a strategic business partner allowing employees from both companies to contribute to the teachers’ growth experience. Employee ambassadors from Jacobs and Dow collaborated with the SSEC to host this event, gain on-the-ground experience and see, first-hand, Jacobs’ investment at work.  

Our collaboration with Dow is synergetic beyond the work we do together in the field, at sites, and in plants, and as global citizens we are also aligned in supporting the advancement of STEM learning. April Steelman, the STEM and solutions manager at Dow Texas Operations told The Facts, “Our goal is to give K-12 teachers a foundation in engineering principles that they can integrate into their classrooms and show how those principles can affect every part of learning.” 

Kari MacGregor, data manager and STEM advocate in our Freeport, Texas office iterates that “[This] program assists teachers and administrators in ways that use non-traditional approaches to spark interest and engagement from students who may not have considered STEM as a future career. These are precisely the diverse and creative thinkers our future workforce needs.” 

The passion at the forum was palpable. Michaela Bratsch, a 2018 SSEATs scholar said, “I get to wake up and teach what I love. I do it because of the teachers who taught me, and I also want to help [students] with their passion.” Discussions and activities at the Forum focused on helping teachers to help students think outside of the box, and bringing relevant and accessible learnings to the classroom. For example, one of the activities Forum attendees participated in required the use of common household items (rice, cotton balls, etc.) to first filter contaminated water and then test for use, including drinkability. Hurricane Harvey, which greatly impacted the Houston area in 2017, shows both geographic and practical relevance because potable water was a concern.

It's inevitable that workforce skills continue to change to keep up with the fast pace of technology. McKinsey reported late in 2017 that the future of labor will “create demand for millions of jobs by 2030…[and] these trends include…[an] investment in technology, infrastructure, and buildings…” McKinsey estimates that almost 400 million global workers will need to learn new skills in response to the predicted rapid automation adoption.

Dr. Yvonne Whitmarsh, one of the educators present at the forum, has taught sixth-eighth grade science for the past 13 years at a school in nearby Richwood, Texas. She said that students need the most attention in developing critical thinking skills because knowledge is too easily accessible via the internet. 

Her students would “benefit from mentors from the industry getting involved to help them grow” and invites industry professionals, like those present at the forum, to serve as judges at their annual science fair. Dr. Whitmarsh has an intimate understanding of both sides of this equation having previously held a position at Dow Texas Operations as an electron microscopy professional.

The involvement from both the Jacobs and Dow ambassadors is critical, and the impact of our two companies collaborating ripples beyond a two-day forum. 

Dan MacGregor, Jacobs Freeport site leader said, “I left the meeting with a sense of responsibility – the schools are locked into their curriculum and are limited by funding.”

Together we are better. When we bring the strength of our two companies’ passion and resources together, we underscore the importance of global citizenship. Our collaboration with the Smithsonian deepens and expands the reach and impact in our classrooms and helps inspire the next generation of innovators to help deliver the promise of a more connected, sustainable world. 

Jacobs has a growing 20-person office with a broad scope of expertise in neighboring Freeport, Texas, just one mile away from Dow’s Texas Operations, where R&D and manufacturing is the dominant focus with products reaching every consumer market.