Alliance works to build interest in Stem
“Imagine losing Dow Chemical in this region,” said Lori Flippin, the STEM initiative leader for the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance. “If we don’t develop enough talent for any company — I’m just naming one that would be devastating to lose in this region — if you don’t work hard to keep your talent pipeline strong, it’s not (just) that you couldn’t attract new companies … but on the flipside, you can also lose big players that are here.
“So you’ve got to keep working and striving, because if you’re not moving forward, truly you’re falling behind because everybody else is in the same talent war as we are,” she added. “It’s not something you want to be the losers at.”
The alliance works to encourage and support initiatives between schools, business associations and other area players spanning Saginaw, Bay, Midland and Isabella counties to improve economic vitality and quality of life in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
Before joining the alliance, Flippin spent more than two decades as an educator and administrator at Essexville-Hampton Public Schools, where she scoured the region for grants and other opportunities to keep extracurricular programs intact at the district.
“I latched on to the work at the alliance and started just as a volunteer member on their committees because I thought it was incredibly intriguing that this group of people came together trying to help make a difference. … I really loved the work and the camaraderie and that we were all in it together,” she said.
Then she made the full-time jump in 2017.
“I thought it was incredibly critical for the work to continue to help support and align the work across all of these different entities, instead of K-12 (schools) working separately, colleges working separately, Michigan Works! working separately and so on,” Flippin said. “It was empowering to be able to take on a position like this.”
Among other things, the alliance helped secure funding for the Early Childhood Access and Equity Project, which sponsors STEM-related workshops and other programs and events for at-risk youth throughout the region to ensure a wide and deep regional STEM talent base in jobs ranging from doctors and engineers to the skilled trades.
“I picture so many of the kids in robotics. … They had no path, no direction prior to exposure to that program; and then by the time they’re coming out of it, they’re going to be a CNC (computer numerical control) operator or a robotics technician or an engineer,” Flippin said. “Having the opportunity to do some of these add-on activities totally changed the trajectory of their lives, and especially if they’re a first-generation college student or if they’re from a low-income family where you’re breaking the cycle of poverty.
“To me, that’s absolutely huge and it’s life-changing for them, but it’s also one more step toward changing the community to providing better, stronger futures here,” she added.
Project Aids At-Risk Students
At-risk students from across the Great Lakes Bay Region will have the chance to grow their STEM strengths in the coming months thanks to the Early Childhood Access and Equity Project, organized by the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance.
Programs include a variety of STEM literacy workshops, camps, field trips and other events outside of traditional classroom settings aimed at improving science, technology, engineering and mathematics outcomes among students and their families — in turn feeding a STEM talent pipeline for their future employers.
Projects will be offered by Bay City Public Schools, the Chippewa Nature Center, the Central Michigan University Center for Excellence in STEM Education, the Clare-Gladwin Regional Education Service District, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Saginaw Alumnae Chapter, Greater Michigan Construction Academy, the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum, Saginaw Intermediate School District and Saginaw Valley State University STEM@SVSU.