Note: This story was updated at 8:16 p.m. to correct the spelling of Cal Ripken Sr.'s last name.
One of every 12 jobs added to the Tennessee economy over the next decade will be in occupations related to science, technology, engineering or math, and the Boys and Girls clubs in the region are trying to prepare today's youths for such jobs through the addition of new STEM labs and equipment at centers across the Tennessee Valley.
On Monday, the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and the Tennessee Valley Authority rolled out the last of its 27 STEM centers offered at Boys and Girls clubs in the 7-state TVA region. Through a $1.1 million partnership between TVA and the Ripken Foundation, each of the 27 centers is getting six Chromebooks, a Tech Tub to safely store computers, a 3D printer, educational STEM products, a custom-designed curriculum tied to Next Generation Science Standards and other equipment.
"The STEM lab will really open up a lot of doors for kids who might not have that opportunity," Robbie Slocumb, chief executive of Boys & Girls Clubs of Gordon, Murray and Whitfield counties, said in an interview Friday when the program was rolled out in Dalton. "And that's really what we're focusing on, giving kids open opportunities through our programs and activities, and this is a great way where community reps are around our kids and give them that opportunity."
The Tennessee Department of Labor projects STEM jobs will grow 21.6% in the decade betweeen 2016 and 2026, adding 29,850 jobs in the state, or 8.4% of all new jobs.
Dan Pratt, senior vice president of regional relations for TVA, said the federal utility is backing the STEM training effort at local Boys and Girls clubs to help entice more youth into emerging STEM fields, which are in high demand at TVA and other employers in the region.
"I think this is essential for workforce development and to make sure we are preparing kids today to make sure they will be the productive workforce we will need at TVA to serve the energy needs of this valley," he said.
— Compiled by Dave Flessner