Spotlight

Co-ops, Teachers Prepare Students for Jobs of the Future

Teachers from every school district in North Carolina recently connected with electric co-ops at the emPowering STEM Classroom to Career Conference in Raleigh. The conference brought together educators and industry experts from four fields — energy, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), information technology and agriculture — and provided teachers with new resources to prepare students for the jobs of the future.

At the event, participants heard from speakers including Mark Johnson, the State Superintendent at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, and then rotated through a series of learning labs led by industry experts.

Electric cooperatives led a session focused on energy, guiding participants through a hands-on learning lab to illuminate the mysteries of the grid. Teachers formed a co-op and connected circuits to learn how power is distributed, and they left with lesson plans so they can bring the energy project back to their classrooms.

The session was led by Matt Warner, project engineer with Pee Dee Electric, Lindsey Listrom, communications manager with North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, and Justin Jones, a science teacher and Kenan Fellow educator who worked with Pee Dee Electric in 2016.

“The electric industry is a rapidly evolving environment with the need for skilled labor steadily increasing,” said Warner. “Co-ops are seizing this opportunity to actively engage a future generation into perusing a career in the industry, whether it be creating the next big clean energy source, or actively working to keep the current power grid alive and functional.”

The emPowering STEM Conference was put on by the governor’s North Carolina Committee for Business and the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership. The idea grew out of the need to close the gap between the STEM skills that North Carolina companies seek in their employees and the level of interest and mastery in those fields among students.

Lindsey Listrom and Matt Warner demonstrate a mini version of the electric grid.

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