Bridging the Gap between Teachers and Industry


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Bridging the Gap between Teachers and Industry

In July, most students and teachers were taking a well-deserved break from a long, busy year, but not a group of 60 teachers from the Capital District in New York. The teachers gathered at the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) headquarters in Latham to participate in a special SEMI High Tech U (HTU) for teachers. The program, sponsored by NYSUT, General Electric, and Air Products Foundation was focused on bridging the gap between teachers and high-technology companies, many concentrated on nanotechnology.

The innovative SEMI program works with middle- and high school teachers. Using a series of workshops and open discussions with nanotechnology industry leaders, teachers learned about opportunities in high-technology fields, as well as how to best prepare students for math and science-based careers.

The importance of high-tech careers is obvious in the Latham area in New York. It is a growing hot spot for nanotechnology. In 1998, an 18-county area in the northeast section of New York State was designated a “Tech Valley”— and over the past decade, the area has seen significant investment from government, industry associations and companies.

Major developments include the US$ 3 billion, 450,000-square foot Albany NanoTech facility, a US$ 100 million revitalization of the GE R&D facility, and most recently, AMD has announced plans to build a 1.2 million square foot plant in Saratoga County. The plant will be one of the most technologically advanced facilities in the world, and it is expected to create 1,200 new jobs. This regional growth reinforces the need for programs such as HTU, which are helping increase awareness of high-tech opportunities with students, and ultimately helping to fortify the workforce.

“This commitment to professional development and in strengthening our understanding of new scientific developments is typical of our members,” said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira, in an interview with New York Teacher magazine. “Their effort will ensure the students in their classrooms have the skills needed to succeed in emerging industries and meet the challenge of global competition.”

Working with industry leaders including the Air Products Foundation, General Electric, the SEMI Foundation, and the Workforce Consortium for Emerging Technologies, NYSUT successfully illustrated key relationships between professionals in the classroom and industry. During the program, teachers were treated to a tour of the GE facility in nearby Schenectady, where they participated in interactive lab sessions.

Neira observed that the program “can help shape our state’s economic viability,” and promised to “continue to grow this partnership among our members, higher educations institutions and industry leaders.”

“SEMI HTU was established almost eight years ago to address an important need to help ensure a sustainable pool of highly qualified job candidates for the high-technology fields,” said Lisa Anderson, vice president of the SEMI Foundation. “To accomplish this goal, it is critical to establish strong lines of communication between industry people, teachers and their students.”

The SEMI HTU program for students has been held over 75 times, in five countries, and the “Teacher Edition” has been conducted in all of these regions as well. To date, the program has successfully reached over 3,000 students directly, many of whom have gone on to pursue degree programs in math, science and high-technology disciplines.

For more information about, or to get involved in, SEMI HTU or the SEMI Foundation, please visit www.semi.org/foundation.

SEMI High Tech U is an industry-driven math and science-based career exploration program for high school students and teachers.