STEM Beats - January 2016

Mock Interviews Give Students Practice—and Hope—for Future Careers

January 28, 2016

This is the fifth in a series of blogs on work-based learning in STEM. Mock interviews are one of six types of employer-led learning activities highlighted in our employer’s guide to work-based learning.

Interviewing for a job can make even seasoned professionals go wobbly at the knees. Given the high stakes, every bit of preparation helps—and an early start well before students go after their dream jobs can make a difference in their career paths. 

Two of our member companies, 3M and The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC), are among those that provide that leg up with mock interviews, which give high school students a reason to think about what they offer to prospective employers, present themselves and articulate their strengths, and learn about STEM careers and how to prepare for them.

At 3M, more than 120 employee volunteers conduct 430 mock interviews every year at Harding and Johnson senior high schools in the St. Paul (MN) Public Schools, a longtime district partner. Mock interviews are the capstone to an e-mentors program, in which 3M employees support students via email as part of their postsecondary preparation coursework, according to 3M’s Anne Seaquist, manager, volunteer initiatives.

“It’s a chance for high school students to go through an actual interview format, which might be completely new to them,” says Matthew Ladhoff, diversity and education specialist at 3Mgives. “At the end of the interview, there’s a chance for an informal Q&A to really get an understanding of what it takes to go through that high school process and go through college.”

Ladhoff is one of many 3M “near peers”—recent college graduates—who conduct mock interviews, which are open to the entire student bodies of the two high schools. Students prepare in advance by developing resumes, cover letters and portfolios of their work in class. While their level of preparation varies, most students dress up for the 30-minute interviews. To Ladhoff, this indicates how seriously the students, most of whom are economically disadvantaged, take this opportunity.

Students particularly enjoy the informal Q&A. “Some students ask very insightful, engaging questions, with follow-up questions,” Ladhoff says. “They’re ready to talk about which colleges they’re looking to attend. They want to know about college, how to get a job, how to go through interviews. They want to know how that young professional got to where they are.”

3M, which has offered the mock interviews for 10 years, sees business benefits from employee volunteerism. Recently, a company survey of employees revealed that those who had volunteered were more likely to recommend a friend to 3M. “This speaks volumes to the fact that employees who are getting more deeply engaged in the resources the company is providing have higher retention rates, more fulfilling jobs and careers, and are happier,” says Jacqueline Berry, global communications manager, 3Mgives. Mock interviews also align with 3M leadership behaviors, such as developing self and others (professional development).

Mock Interviews with a Twist
DTCC began providing mock interviews more recently, partnering with both national and local organizations in Tampa, Boston and New York City and adjusting the format to meet student needs.

In Tampa, participating in the DTCC Toastmasters club—part of the international organization that supports communication and leadership development—sparked the interest of a women-led group of employees in giving back to the community in partnership with the club. To support their initiative, DTCC partnered with United Way Suncoast, a charitable organization serving the Tampa Bay area. That organization established a relationship between DTCC and the Hillsborough County (FL) Children and Youth Services Program, which identified a high-need group of high school students in its foster care program.

DTCC employee volunteers used a Toastmasters youth leadership curriculum to work with these students for two hours every week at their school, engaging them in topics ranging from communication to career tracks to understanding the business world. Then, students came to DTCC’s Tampa offices for “Student Professional Readiness Day,” a pilot program held for the first time in October 2015.

“Our employee volunteers built a one-day agenda to tell a career story and provide a broader perspective on how to prepare for a career, what careers are available at DTCC and what type of training you need for them,” says DTCC’s Marie Chinnici-Everitt, managing director and chief marketing officer, DTCC Tampa site lead, and vice chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Council.

Employees acted out “good” and “bad” interviews, with one employee taking on the role of the interviewer and two others playing the job candidates. Then, employees led small-group discussions with students to identify good and bad interview behaviors and answers and determine the best candidate to hire. “Of course the bad interview was fun for them,” Chinnici-Everitt says. “It was light and serious at the same time. Mock interviews support student engagement and learning about STEM subjects and careers by demonstrating interview best practices and preparing students for what interviewers are currently looking for in the workplace. It stresses to the students the importance of being prepared, professional, working in teams and impromptu speaking as they may get asked questions they have not prepared for.

“Most importantly for the population we worked with,” Chinnici-Everitt adds, “it gave them hope. It gave them exposure to the workplace and to careers they would not have had otherwise.”

For their part, employees have been very excited to develop a meaningful program. “The skills piece is huge,” Chinnici-Everitt says. “The employees involved in developing the curriculum and executing it got a lot of experience with communication, mentoring, openness and expanding their horizons.”

The Tampa initiative builds on outreach in other cities where DTCC has a presence. In New York City, DTCC partners with PENCIL, an organization that works with businesses to identify their capacity and interests, align them with student and school needs, and find the best entry points for engagement to improve student and school performance and enhance workforce pathways. In 2014, PENCIL established a relationship between DTCC and the Lower East Side Preparatory High School in Manhattan. Since then, DTCC employee volunteers have met bi-monthly with students there to support their college and career readiness. As part of this partnership, DTCC employees offer both mock interviews and, as in Tampa, skits of “good” and “bad” interviews.

In Boston and New York City, DTCC also partners with Year Up, an organization that connects young people with companies that need talent. Programs in both cities offer financial operations, IT, and sales and customer support tracks for students; New York City also has digital marketing and anti-money laundering tracks. Last year, DTCC employee volunteers in both cities played the role of interviewer for Year Up students, providing feedback to help sharpen their interviewing skills and confidence in those STEM fields.

Tags: Employee Engagement

Business Celebrates STEM, Looks Ahead in 2016

January 27, 2016

Change the Equation and our members had an impressive year in 2015 and are looking ahead to even bigger things in 2016! Join us in celebrating 2015, and looking ahead as our visionary corporate members are already making STEM learning a reality for young people all across the U.S. this year.

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Iowa has already announced it's broader public-private commitment to STEMworks programs this year, and our CEO Linda Rosen has published a new piece in the Huffington Post about our members' STEM skills-based volunteerism efforts. And that's just the beginning! Watch this space for more about how we are leading the charge for quality STEM experiences and progress to our goals outlined below.

Guest Blog: Justina Nixon-Saintil of Verizon

January 26, 2016

What first sparked your interest in STEM?
As a child, I was always interested in learning how machines worked, which led me to dismantle many radios and other small instruments at home.  I also excelled in math, because I enjoy problem solving.  Right around high school I was introduced to this new technology called a “computer” and I was hooked.  My sister who was already in college recommended that I consider engineering, and that’s how I majored in Mechanical Engineering at the University at Buffalo.

What aspect of STEM is most appealing to you?
I believe STEM provides the ability to use your knowledge and skills to create solutions for real world problems. 

Who is your “STEM hero”?
There are several people who have inspired and influenced my path to STEM throughout my life.  One of my brothers, Lincoln Nixon, first exposed me to computers and computer science when I was in high school.  He attended Fordham University and majored in computer science at the time.  After graduating from college, I worked at a company where my manager, Dan Carl, a Professional engineer, mentored and guided me to further develop my skills.  In my current role at Verizon, I have been tasked with developing programs to get the next generation as excited about STEM as I was when I was a little girl, so I regularly work with people like Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code, or Dr. Roseanne White, executive director of the Technology Student Association, who are providing amazing opportunities for young people to become interested in STEM. I consider them all my STEM heroes.

How did you decide to pursue a STEM career?
I graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree and searched for opportunities where I could use my education and skills. I became an engineer at the Department of Energy for two years, then I began my career at Verizon (then NYNEX) designing circuits.  I eventually obtained my MBA and moved into product development and marketing. I now work for the Verizon Foundation creating and launching STEM programs for young people.

How do you use STEM every day?
I don’t think people realize just how much STEM impacts their life every day. I follow the engineering process almost daily in my current position. Much of my work focuses on creating new opportunities to positively impact under-resourced and under-represented youth.  I continually identify needs, conduct research, create possible solutions, pilot those solutions, and iterate as needed.  Math is inherent in almost everything I do, from managing my budget to analyzing impact metrics data. 

What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue STEM – for fun or for their career?
You have to be persistent and have some grit.  When I was pursuing my engineering degree in college, there were many times where I did not have the confidence to continue or felt overwhelmed, but I hung in there because I really loved engineering.  It wasn’t easy, but I worked through it like I work through any problems now.  Never give up! Follow your passion, and get support from peers, mentors, teachers, and advisors to help you succeed. 

Justina Nixon-Saintil is the director for Corporate Social Responsibility programs at Verizon, accountable for the development, implementation and measurement of the organization's global education and healthcare initiatives. Before joining Verizon (then NYNEX) in 1996, Justina worked as an Engineer for the U.S. Department of Energy in West Valley, NY. Justina holds a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University at Buffalo and an MBA from New York University Stern School of Business.

Tags: guest blog

New STEMworks Programs Will Expand Across the State of Iowa

January 25, 2016

In 2016, the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council will bring STEMworks programs to a big chunk of the state’s K-12 enrollment. For the past two years, Change the Equation has helped the Governor’s Council find programs that are most likely to make a difference for young Iowans.

Today, the Council announced that more than $3 million in state and private funds will bring seven long-time STEMworks programs to schools and out-of-school programs across the state: Engineering is Elementary, FIRST Robotics, Making STEM Connections, PowerTeaching Math, Project Lead the Way, SUPUP, and ST Math. 

In addition, Iowa-based reviewers using our rigorous STEMworks review process identified two more programs for scaling in the state: the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE), a leading inquiry-based high school agricultural science program, and Hyperstream, a real-world, interactive program to make 5th- through 12th-graders innovators in technology.

The Iowa Scale Up Program will expose a third or more of Iowa school children to new and exciting STEM education opportunities. Our rigorous process ensures that those opportunities are among the world’s best.

Tags: STEMworks

Honoring the Spirit of Service

January 21, 2016

Earlier this week, Americans marked Martin Luther King Day through volunteer service, celebrating King’s vision of creating a “Beloved Community.”   Many demonstrated their personal commitment to service as individuals, families, and groups, helping develop healthy, strong communities. 

Dr. King’s vision of the beloved community is a realistic achievable goal that can be attained by addressing the triple evils of poverty, racism, and militarism, by implementing his 6 steps of non-violent social change that include information gathering; education; personal commitment; discussion/negotiation; direct action; and reconciliation.  In 2016, Change the Equation is honoring that spirit by encouraging our corporate members to advance service through skills-based volunteering in K-12 STEM – and we can help you!

Corporate focus on K-12 STEM employee volunteerism is one way to advance the development of the “Beloved Community” that Dr. King so fervently sought to create. It produces an infrastructure for the long-term success of the community, while building the U.S. workforce.  In particular, skills-based volunteering can provide low-income and minority students, who may have limited knowledge of STEM careers, access to professionals who can support student development of professional identity while introducing a career pathway that can lead one from poverty to the middle class.  

Companies can seize opportunities to expose students to specific STEM industry needs early.  Capturing interest in specific careers gives companies the opportunity to develop workplace skills in students at interest onset and the advantage in recruiting and retaining employees in competitive labor markets.

Thirteen Change the Equation members have made the commitment to a collective 14,000 days of skills-based volunteering in 2016.  And we invite more companies to join them by participating in CTEq’s skills-based volunteer matching network, matching STEM professional volunteers with schools throughout the U.S. 

Participating CTEq members:

Learn how your company employees can participate in skills-based volunteering. Contact: Buffy DeBreaux-Watts to get started. 

Tags: Employee Engagement