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Communities answer challenge

It’s been called a hiring crisis in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. A study by Georgetown University predicted 2.4 million U.S. STEM jobs will be unfilled by 2018. Tami Hatfield, who handles workforce development for Ford Motor Company in Louisville, Ky., estimates in manufacturing alone there will be two million unfilled jobs by 2025.


Ford, which has supported education that meets workplace needs for more than 100 years, this year launched a new grant program to prepare high school students for STEM careers. The Ford STEM Community Challenge combines the successful Ford College Community Challenge template with students involved with Ford Next Generation Learning. Ford NGL is a growing national network of communities that brings schools, businesses and local communities together to create academies where young people can learn about real-world careers with a focus on STEM fields. Ford NGL communities see increased student success, workforce outcomes and community prosperity.

Mirroring the C3 program, the winning teams in the Ford STEM C2 addressed an unmet, real-life need around the theme "Building Sustainable Communities". High school students were challenged to think broadly and put their knowledge of STEM to work making people’s lives better. Significant student input, involvement and leadership was essential to meet the challenge.

The top winning programs showed that students are capable of working together to solve STEM related issues. Two academies were awarded $10,000 to develop their projects:

  • Whites Creek High School, Academy of Alternative Energy, Nashville, Tenn.: Students will travel across the country with their alternative energy education mobile lab, powered by soybeans the students grew. They will help other schools set up lessons for teaching thousands of students about different types of alternative energy.
  • Van Horn High School, STEM Academy in Independence, Mo.: Students will refurbish, restore and donate updated computers to local families. Students will take a leadership role as workshop facilitators to the help recipients use the refurbished devices.

“We want to engage more students as they are learning to keep them in school and motivated to continue their education beyond graduation,” Mike Schmidt, director, Education and Global Community Development, Ford Motor Company Fund. “We are showing [students] that what they learn in the classroom can be taken into the real world and used to build cars or computers, develop life-saving medical breakthroughs or invent a new procedure to make someone’s life easier.”

Students from the winning teams are among those attending the '16 Ford NGL National Conference: The Next Level in Coachella Valley, Calif., which closes today after starting Wednesday. The conference gathers superintendents, principals, teachers, business leaders and students to chart a course for the future in Ford NGL communities from Florida to California.

“The whole conference was about taking the academy model to the next level by learning from each other, continuing to innovate and deepening the impact,” Cheryl Carrier, executive director, Ford NGL, said. “We are encouraging all Ford NGL communities to keep up the good work and ensure every student has access to the academy model in their communities.”

Headshot of Cheryl Carrier smiling with dark glasses and in a purple top
Cheryl Carrier, executive director, Ford Next Generation Learning

Ford Motor Company Fund—the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company—invests nearly $10 million each year in innovative educational programs that enable people to develop ideas that improve the quality of life in their communities. Ford has long believed that education is the engine that drives individual and community success. When students can make tangible connections between the classroom and the community, real innovation is often the result. Ford NGL is connecting young people with professionals who can show them the ropes in the day-to-day working world while they absorb core academic lessons in fields such as STEM.

“STEM can be very cool,” Schmidt, said. “As we engage students we hope to drive that point home by showing them STEM can help them build, create and make a real difference in the world.”

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