The Greater Spokane Incorporated Business AfterSchool program is a series of industry-specific weeklong events that provide on-site awareness for students, educators and parents who are curious about how to best prepare for a future in high-demand industries. Highlighting new technology, research, development and innovation, these industry workshops are a symbiotic way to bridge the gap between education and employment. 

Every year businesses in the Spokane region opened their doors for Greater Spokane Incorporated's Business AfterSchool workshops. These industry workshops highlighting manufacturing, computer science, engineering, and health care include site tours, examples of the types of careers available in these industries, hands-on projects that involved problem solving and innovative solutions, and job-readiness presentations aimed at educating students about fields of study. 

Meredith Noble, a funding specialist at Stantec, was so pleased with their participation that she summarized her experience to share with other Stantec offices. We think she did a great job of capturing the purpose and energy of this event, so we asked if we could borrow her words to share with you. She said yes, and so … Here is Meredith’s story:

Chances are you probably have heard the acronym STEM. Standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, the general realization of the STEM movement is that kids need to get excited about science early on in order to pursue careers in those fields. This couldn’t be truer in the state of Washington. Washington ranks #1 in the nation for STEM jobs, but ranks #49 for filling available STEM jobs. Having come to this harsh realization, Spokane is taking the challenge head on, bringing together students, educators, and the community in a way never before done. 

Every year our Spokane office invites 30 middle school students into our office to experience what careers are like in the architecture and engineering field. This year, we kicked off the event with a presentation on how we use STEM every day. The group became noticeably excited when we dove into the specifics of a road re-design we did in Juneau, Alaska. The enthusiasm didn’t abate a bit for the next two hours. 

We broke the group into three sub-groups who rotated between architecture, mechanical engineering, and civil engineering stations. The civil group was challenged to stack cups as high as possible using only a rubber band and string; they could not touch the cups with their hands.  A seemingly impossible task, it took them no time to figure out how to do it. And perhaps most interestingly, no group did it the same way. I felt I could identify the students we would hire in 10 years based on that activity alone – their ability to work together, prioritize their time and problem solve was absolutely fantastic.  

The architecture groups were each given a client problem and asked to design a space that suited their needs. For instance, one challenge was to design a house for a female mountain biker. After listing the qualities that that person would need, we began drawing. I think in just 20 minutes we designed my future dream home!  The students were just as energized designing solutions for all sorts of unusual problems – just as we do every day! 

The mechanical engineering group used an infrared camera to show students how we identify areas in buildings that are losing heat, so we can do a better job of energy investigating. They talked about how all objects give off invisible infrared light, and how we can use instruments to “see” the IR light and determine the object’s temperature.  The students got to point the IR camera at various hot and cold objects and even go into our building’s boiler room.  

When the large group reconvened, we asked the students who would want to go into each of the disciplines. It was a fairly even split with hands shooting up right away. I concluded with a quick summary of “Meredith’s guide to crushing it – tips for creating fulfilling experiences.” The general ideas were to never settle for soul-sucking work, to work on projects that excite you, and to work with people smarter than you. After breaking down simple, actionable items for achieving that, we opened the floor to questions. Their number one question was how they could get an internship with us … And they are only eighth-grade students! It was absolutely thrilling to meet the next generation of our industry and to feel the radiation of their excitement for the future.  

With that, we all certainly feel that Engineering Week was a huge success. If you get the opportunity to bring students into your office, don’t hesitate to do it. Not only will you give back to the community, you will be reminded of why the work you do is so darn cool.  

~Meredith Noble