← View All Articles

STEAM focus a key for employers

Editorial from the Greenville News:

South Carolina has for a long time been working hard to prepare students in high school to take jobs in the emerging high-technology manufacturing industry that is taking root here. That's important, because this industrial sector is essential to the state's economic well being. Related: Greenville classrooms to add STEAM In Greenville County, the efforts are taking the form of strong push to educate students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and math — the so-called STEAM fields. Those efforts will get a significant boost when the upcoming school year begins as the district opens the new Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School that is dedicated to STEAM. It also will be helped as the district begins spreading the ideas of workplace collaboration and project learning — essential to success in STEAM fields — throughout the School District. To that end, a group of 20 middle school teachers have spent time this summer developing projects based on the Reedy River and Falls Park to try out on their students, according to a recent report by Greenville News reporter Ron Barnett. The goal, as one of the teachers put it in the report, is to connect "all the disciplines of education with real life." That is vital because the goal of state educators has long been to show students how the things they learn in school can be applied to real life — how education translates to career, in other words. In a recent op-ed column in The News, Dee Dee Washington, the Greenville County School District's associate superintendent for academics, said that innovation in the public schools is gaining support. She offered several examples of what innovative classrooms look like: • Students are actively engaged in their learning, including working as a team on projects to research and solve problems. • Technology is used to expand learning. • Teachers lecture less and have flexibility and time to work with individual students. • There are clear measures of accountability. • Character traits needed for success in the workplace are emphasized. In addition to the new Fisher Middle that opens this fall, Washington mentioned other efforts that lead this direction including the A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School that has a focus that very much fits with the new middle school, the district's 11 magnet academies, the Fine Arts Center, the International Baccalaureate Program, Sterling School and others. Here's an important takeaway: Although the focus on STEAM is really taking off this year, the emphasis on transforming how children learn in order to better meet the needs of state employers is ongoing and is evident in an array of School District resources. Greenville County is among the state's leaders in this sort of innovation. It is important that these efforts are being driven by some of the very employers that will benefit. For example, the district-wide efforts to promote the focus on the STEAM disciplines is being funded by a two-year grant from the Bosch Community Fund, and it was a joint effort between the School District and Clemson University. Dani Herro, a Clemson teacher education professor, summed up the value in a collaborative effort such as this: "It really fosters a partnership that's responsive to what business is asking for," Herro said. "So that's what we're hearing from industry leaders and educators. This is what we really need, this is the requisite skill set." As state economic development leaders market South Carolina to potential employers, one of the most vital things that they can offer is an adequately trained workforce. That training starts well before an individual reaches college or even graduates from high school. And work done now to show students the value of their education will pay dividends not next year or the year after, but perhaps a decade from now. The success of efforts such as Clemson's International Center for Automotive Research, and the creation of jobs at employers such as BMW, Michelin and Boeing — and the many small-business suppliers that serve those companies — are the seeds that have helped all of us see the need for this focus on the STEAM disciplines. State education leaders, state economic development leaders and business leaders throughout the region deserve credit for making this a priority and for giving these important disciplines the attention they need in our local schools.

#1Spark! to celebrate all things entrepreneurial and creative

Chapman Cultural Center is calling all creative and entrepreneurial people, including artists, inventors, business start-ups, craftsmen, food vendors and others, to participate in its #1Spark! festival Saturday, Sept. 6, in downtown Spartanburg. #1Spark! -- where creativity and innovation collide  -- is a festival of ideas bringing together all the creative forces of the community, especially those associated with business and the arts. The goal is to ignite creativity and innovation by connecting people and ideas. Chapman Cultural Center is seeking artists, entrepreneurs or inventors who are looking for opportunities to interact with the public or who desire feedback from potential customers in a low-risk environment in product/service development. Jennifer Evins, Chapman’s president/CEO, said: “Spartanburg is already known throughout the region as a vibrant arts community. We are known nationwide as a pro-business community. What better way to celebrate two of our most valuable assets than to combine them into a single concept and event? It will be a unique experience, and one that I’m sure the general public will find informative, creative, and fun.” To be a creator (entrepreneur, artist or inventor) and to have a booth to demonstrate and/or sell goods or services there is a simple application process and a $30 fee. To apply, please call (864) 591-5604 or email jPickens@SpartanArts.org. The outdoor festival will start at 11 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. between Chapman Cultural Center and “The George,” along North Liberty Street. Major partners in the festival include USC Upstate’s The George (the Johnson College of Business and Economics) and the Iron Yard, the downtown business accelerator. “We are about entrepreneurship. We’re about art. We’re about education. We’re about ideas. What better way to encourage innovation and creativity than to bring arts and business together?” Evins said. Via: Chapman Cultural Center  

The arts: the private sector’s secret weapon

In a recent Huffington Post blog post, Americans for the Arts CEO Robert Lynch weighed in on why companies seeking new ways to build their competitive advantage are increasingly finding that the arts are the key to driving true innovation and ultimately reaching business goals.

The Conference Board recently released their 2013 CEO Challenge Report, which outlined the top five global challenges for CEOs:
    1. Human Capital
    2. Operational Excellence
    3. Innovation
    4. Customer Relationships, and
    5. Global Political Economic Risk.
As a CEO, these challenges obviously resonated with me. But they also struck a chord with the arts advocate in me. I know that the arts industry can feel very foreign to the business community. But as companies seek new ways to build their competitive advantage, they are increasingly finding that the arts are the key to driving true innovation, ultimately reaching their business goals. So in fact, the arts can play a tremendously important role in helping CEOs address each of the challenges outlined in the CEO Challenge Report. Human Capital The way we do business is rapidly changing every day. With the advent of new technologies and younger generations' tendency to be more on the move in their professional lives, the squeeze is on from all sides to actively engage and retain top talent. Here, the arts can be a secret weapon. In my conversations with business executives across the country they have told me that the arts are an effective tool. Further, the arts play a significant role in attracting and retaining a skilled and educated workforce by ensuring that employees have a vibrant life outside the office. In fact, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas recently conceded that Dallas lost its bid for relocation of the Boeing Headquarters to Chicago because it could not compete culturally--a high priority for Boeing in attracting executives and their families. At the end of the day, if we want the best employees, we have to provide them with the best opportunities to become artistically and culturally involved in and out of the office. Operational Excellence The ability to work across boundaries is an enormously significant skill that will allow organizations and businesses to better operate in an increasingly interconnected world. By embracing the arts, businesses can produce exciting new methods of achieving goals institutionally and affect the output of work in a positive, growth-oriented manner. According to Americans for the Arts' BCA National Survey of Business Support for the Arts, business leaders believe that the arts promote team-building and better collaboration across departments and disciplines, teach different ways of seeing the same issue, and allow for new kinds of strategies to be embraced. Innovation Innovation and creativity are among the top five applied skills sought by business leaders according to Americans for the Arts' and The Conference Board's "Ready to Innovate" report. Likewise, IBM's Global Leadership Survey also says that creativity is the number one quality of successful leaders. So how can we best develop creativity in our workforce? According to "Ready to Innovate," study of the arts is at the top of the list for both business leaders and school superintendents. Innovation, creativity, business--all require a level of fearlessness and a desire to push beyond the walls. And the arts can be a powerful tool for acquiring the confidence, skills, and mindset to transform seemingly impossible ideas into reality. Customer Relationships Engaged, creative employees who are encouraged to think in new, innovative ways are likely to be both productive and actively improve both the company and their own business skills. Business leaders have told me they have seen the arts help facilitate their employee's engagement and fuel their creative juices. It is not just an indirect result, either: the arts build empathy, observation, and problem-identification and problem-solving skills, which translates to better customer service and a deeper understanding of the constituency. Global Political Economic Risk Cultural diplomacy is increasingly being used as a strategy to promote mutual understanding across cultures. On a practical level, arts exchanges build markets and strengthen economic relationships between cultures through sharing of artistic goods--something that is beneficial both financially and culturally. The arts also help us to grasp cultural realities in places where language, religion, politics--and, perhaps more apropos, business practices--may be completely unfamiliar. Many companies have already recognized the value the arts can bring to their bottom line and started strategic partnerships with the arts. And according to Americans for the Arts' BCA Survey, more are cluing in to the valuable contribution a strong arts partnership brings to their sector. Still, there is a strong need to make the case for how partnering with the arts can benefit the business sector. The survey shows that 73 percent of companies that actually support the arts consider them to be a moderate to low priority. To ensure more businesses understand the value of partnering with the arts, Americans for the Arts launched the pARTnership Movement in January 2012. The arts are connectors. They help us connect to our own potential by igniting a creative, bold, and innovative mindset. They help us connect to others by encouraging engagement, empathy, and the understanding that there are many ways of seeing the same thing. The arts connect people to the communities in which they live, the businesses at which they work, and the people with whom they interact. Without the arts, these five issues are challenges, indeed. But with the arts, I believe we can make a difference in our businesses and in our lives.
Via: The Huffington Post