Big Brothers Big Sisters STEAM lab prepares students for 21st century workforce

Written by on May 26, 2021

Big Brothers Big Sisters STEAM lab prepares students for 21st century workforce

By Chloe Nouvelle

May 26, 2021

The Big Brothers Big Sisters and their STEAM lab. Photo | Chloe Nouvelle / WLVR

Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math are key subjects in education and workforce development. They’re often combined into the acronym STEAM. But disparities exist when it comes to accessing programs in these fields.

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One Lehigh Valley state senator and nonprofit have worked together to change that.  

State Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) says expanding educational opportunities for students is just common sense. 

“One of the most important obligations of state government is to prepare our young people for the future through education opportunities,” Browne says. 

For many students STEAM-related fields will be the key to their futures, he says, which is why he helped secure $300,000 in state funding to support a STEAM lab in Allentown run by Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lehigh Valley. 

“Allentown is, of course, our largest community. It has the most economic challenges for students. We are trying to make sure that every student in the Lehigh Valley has equal opportunity for connections to the modern workforce. And that is very important from the standpoint of prioritizing funding,” Browne says.

Susan Bartels, chief executive officer of Valley’s Big Brothers Big Sisters, wants an even playing field for all kids.

“We have a disparity in what young people that we serve have access to versus other young people. So we wanted to make sure we helped close that gap,” Bartels says. 

More than 100 kids have used the STEAM lab during the pandemic, she says. . 

The organization has expanded its work during COVID-19 to include a virtual program that connects middle and high schoolers to current professionals at local companies and universities. They touch on even the simple things, like how to write a work email. 

“The idea behind this virtual program is to really prepare young people for what soft and hard skills they need in order to be an effective employee in the 21st-century workforce.

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