Building Lasting Connections in Business

Establishing real partnerships with business and industry partners within your ecosystem is extremely important to regional work. In this Pressing Topics series conversation, four STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice members shared ideas about how they’ve worked with business and industry.

“We were really lacking talent, especially STEM talent, in our area,” Lori Flippin says, introducing the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance origin story. “Our four chambers came together to work on a business attraction project to address the issue. Meanwhile, we brought together educational entities to work on the talent pipeline. We are working to support all regional industries, including automotive, agriculture, I.T. and healthcare.”

Listen to the Discussion | View the Webinar


Key Takeways

Know your Industry.

Leverage your community assets.

Communicate your value and needs.

Listen to business leaders.

Identify the right people.

Cultivate the partnership.

Say thank you.

Understanding the Value-Add of a Strong STEM Learning Ecosystem

“A well-organized network can be a huge asset that business is looking to leverage,” shares Katie Grootegoed of NeoSTEM. “Our collaborations give business access to the range of public and private schools in the region, while also allowing them to tap into more nimble partners in the ecosystem first to pilot ideas.”

Leveraging network partners to support business partnerships was a common theme and the Great Lakes Bay Regional STEM Alliance and PA Seed both talked about their abilities to engage employees and businesses through tours and site visits.

“International capitalism alone is not a sustainable business model. There need to be opportunities for all and real public value,” says Rob Boyajieff describing Siemens’ approach to business and community engagement. “We want to use technology and modernization as the means to create more connected, thriving communities. If a college campus undergoes a modernization project, students should be involved in that design process. That is real-world, workforce development experience right there.”

Listen to What Business is Saying First and Then Figure Out Where You Can Invite Them In.

“We have definitely learned from our failure of not listening first,” says Dr. Lindsey Rutherford Sides of PA SEED. “Small tweaks to your verbiage to show the connections are sometimes all it takes, but that means you have to listen to industry needs first. I recommend doing small listening tours as a starting place. Find out projections for both immediate and future needs; this is how you will know where the jobs are going to be. Once you know the need, you can easily show business where you can work together.”

Don’t Be Afraid to Put Yourself out There. Develop a Strong Brand for Your Stem Learning Ecosystem and Share It with Everyone You Meet. Partnerships Begin at Any Time and in Any Place.

“I’m always amazed with the six-degrees of separation concept. There have been so many times where I am sitting next to someone new who has heard about our work from another partner. Through random conversation, I leave the meeting with a new partner on board,” Grootegoed says. “We have also learned a lot through our shortcomings. Even with failure, through conversations, we learned the more you can show others the work is real, with real people behind it, the more compelled people are to join you.”

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