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WPI Partners with Northern Ireland Leaders to Help Fill STEM Gap

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Northern Ireland education and employment leaders Justin Kerr, Stewart Matthews, and David Brockbank.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute has partnered employment and education leaders from Northern Ireland to help with a series of new initiatives and continuing efforts to build the technology economy in the area.

As a part of the effort, eight high school aged students from Northern Ireland are participating in Frontiers II, a summer program at WPI that offers high school students the opportunity to participate in robotics, engineering exploration, global sustainability, or the Women’s Leadership Academy.

"This has been a longstanding important program to WPI to make sure we're reaching out to K-12 students to get them excited about STEM," said Suzanne Sontgerath, co-director of the Frontiers program and associate director of Admissions at WPI.

WPI provides one of the largest and most comprehensive university-based K–12 STEM outreach programs in the nation. During the past 10 years, WPI staff and faculty have engaged more than 115,000 girls and boys and 5,300 educators through STEM-focused programs that are targeted at students in elementary, middle, and secondary schools; programs that seek to engage girls and students from underrepresented minorities in STEM disciplines; and programs that provide training and classroom resources for teachers.

An Ongoing Relationship

The relationship between Northern Ireland and WPI has been ongoing, beginning in January when Stephen Flavin, vice president of academic and corporate development at WPI, and Linda Looft, assistant vice president of government and community relations at WPI, participated in the State Department’s inaugural Partnership Opportunity Delegation in Northern Ireland.

Among other activities, the program explored creating a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-based summer camp in Northern Ireland.

Then in March, Northern Ireland leaders, led by Stephen Farry, minister of the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland, visited WPI to gain a deeper understanding about WPI's STEM programs and form a partnership with WPI.

"We agreed at that time that we'd like to form a partnership," said Justin Kerr, a member of the Skills Policy Branch of the Department for Employment and Learning. "There is so much for us to learn here at WPI."

Although an ambitious goal, Kerr notes that Northern Ireland officials want to create 20,000 new STEM jobs by 2020, noting that these jobs are a national priority.

"We know it's ambitious, but we want to set our sights high," said Kerr. "To have the economy that we want we need to have these types of STEM jobs. “We know we need more people in STEM subjects, and not just for the department but for whole government in Northern Ireland.”


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