Oh-Penn Universities, Colleges Invest in STEM Education

Universities and colleges in the Oh-Penn Region are stressing STEM education and workforce training to prepare students for high demand careers.

Bill Lewis
On Sunday, August 25, 2013 - 05:00

The Oh-Penn Region deserves high marks for its strong education network that prepares students to be tomorrow's workers.

The region distinguishes itself with several reputable colleges, universities, career and technical centers, and vocational schools, all of which are placing a growing emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). At Youngstown State University, the College of STEM program occupies four buildings on campus.

"About 20 percent of all current students at YSU are in the College of STEM curriculum," says Martin Abraham, YSU's College of STEM dean. "The college integrates the four course subjects together so that students are more suitable to high-tech companies when they graduate. It provides a one-stop shop for companies looking for a top scientist, engineer or technologist."

Abraham says several local businesses and industries offer internships, co-op opportunities or full-time careers to students in the program.

"Interested companies include Ajax Tocco Magnethermic, Dearing Compressor, Delphi Packard, FirstEnergy, General Electric, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, Timken Company, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the U.S. Navy," he says. "We even had one student do a summer 2012 internship in South Korea to work on an electric vehicle concept."

High-Growth Careers

Other institutions throughout the region are also emphasizing STEM education. Westminster College recently received a $7 million gift to establish The Lemmon Family Scholarships for students who seek careers in the sciences. It has also been recognized by Forbes as the one of best in the nation for women pursuing careers in STEM fields.

Grove City College is also constructing a new STEM building set to open in August 2013, while Butler County Community College has job training programs that help displaced workers find jobs in high-demand industries like the region's fast-growing natural gas sector.

The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges has established a program called JobTrakPA that uses fast, affordable retraining to help displaced workers in the state regain employment in today's high-demand industries. The mission of JobTrakPA is for individuals to enroll in community college classes for rapid retraining to become employable in industries such as advanced manufacturing, energy distribution, production, conservation and health-care information technology.

Calling All Nurses

At Eastern Gateway Community College, officials have added new environmental science and security programs in response to industry needs, while Penn State Shenango has partnered with the School of Nursing at Sharon Regional Health System to offer more course opportunities for students to earn higher nursing degrees.

The same holds true at Kent State University Trumbull, which will debut an RN to BSN nursing program beginning in the fall 2013 semester.

"There is a push nationwide to have a more educated workforce in the nursing industry, so our RN to BSN program is designed for those nurses who have diplomas or associate's degrees to transition to the bachelor's degree programs," says Dan Palmer, assistant dean at Kent State University Trumbull. "Hospitals are looking for a more educated workforce to better meet the increasing challenges of today's health care system, which is why Kent State is rolling this out."

Palmer says the nursing students will participate in classroom work, online classes and hospital training, and they could earn their bachelor's of science degree in nursing within 18 months.

"A total of 20-25 students will start in the fall 2013 semester," Palmer says. "The Kent State University College of Nursing is the largest nursing school in the state of Ohio, with about 43 percent of the entire Northeast Ohio workforce of nurses having graduated from the Kent State program."

Kent State Trumbull is also looking into establishing a veterinary technology program beginning in late 2013, while the KSU East Liverpool campus recently spent $700,000 to upgrade its nursing laboratory. More than half the grant went toward the purchase of a METIman nursing patient simulator, which is a full-body wireless instrumented adult mannequin that has blinking eyes, reactive pupils, chest excursion, tongue swelling, cardiac rhythms, lung and bowel sounds, convulsion capabilities and a simulated pulse. 


Bill Lewis is an award-winning business journalist whose work has appeared in publications across the United States.