Kenan Fellows Program and Biogen Foundation Collaborate to Advance Workforce Education

RALEIGH, N.C. – N.C. State University’s Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership, a statewide collaborative that is leading transformation in education and advancing local workforce development, announced today that it has received a grant from the Biogen Foundation to launch the Triangle area pilot of STEMwork, an innovative new professional development program for K-12 educators.

“Students are best set up for success when educators are empowered to deliver robust STEM education tailored specifically for career opportunities,” said Melissa Seymour, Global Head of Quality and Chief Quality Officer, Biogen Foundation Board member. “The Biogen Foundation is proud to support the Kenan Fellows Program. STEMwork is well aligned to develop students in a way to help them build skills aligned with the needs of local employers.”

STEMwork grows out of the need to close the skills gap that many North Carolina STEM industries encounter. A North Carolina Department of Commerce survey found that almost 60 percent of the state’s STEM-related industries report struggling to find enough qualified candidates to fill open positions. This problem can be traced to a lack of skilled workers moving into the STEM career pipeline. STEMwork gives educators the tools they need to establish and sustain education–business partnerships with local STEM employers. These partnerships are critical in preparing students for STEM careers while offering local businesses the opportunity to foster their next generation of talent.

“The Kenan Fellows Program has a 20-year history of bringing together teacher leaders and STEM professionals. STEMwork allows us to leverage our network of over 500 alumni in order to scale our mission in ways that are sustainable and equitable across the state,” said Elaine Franklin, director of the Kenan Fellows Program. “We are grateful for industry leaders like the Biogen Foundation, which has been a longtime supporter of our program, and a champion of advancing STEM education.”

STEMwork is a year-long blended (online and offline) professional development program which includes eight online asynchronous sessions, industry visits, and meet-ups with facilitators and their team members. As part of the program, teachers will go into local industries where they will learn about the variety of STEM jobs that are available in their local community. With the guidance of a facilitator trained by the Kenan Fellows Program, the teachers will learn how to use this knowledge to breathe new life into the subjects they teach. Upon completion, the teachers will have developed a one-of-a-kind Project-Based Learning (PBL) unit that can be implemented in their classrooms, and shared with colleagues. Research on PBL has shown the approach to yield numerous benefits, particularly in terms of student engagement and building competencies essential to college and career readiness.

Thanks to the Biogen Foundation, the Kenan Fellows Program is able to offer the program to 43 teachers in the Triangle area, which is only one of two regions in the state selected for the 2020-21 pilot. Teachers participating in the pilot will attend for free and receive a $200 stipend to support the implementation of their PBL unit. A variety of local industries are participating in virtual and in-person site visits including Biogen, Cornerstone Building Brands, SAS, Red Hat, EPA, US Army Corps of Engineers, Cisco, Glen Raven, Carolina Biological, and Labcorp.