A good-sized crowd turned out for Monday morning’s meeting in Atlantic of ISU Extension officials, to hear what the Extension Service is offering for the future, and to offer opinions on the direction the Service is taking.
Cathann Kress, ISU Extension & Outreach Vice President
Appearing at the meeting held in the Cass County Community Center, was Cathann Kress, ISU Extension and Outreach vice president, and Terry Maloy, Iowa Association of County Extension Councils executive director. Kress told the audience and Extension Council members about four trends currently guiding the work of the Extension and Outreach service. The first was “Economic Development.” She said their economic development programming is focused on actions to help Iowa’s economy grow and prosper, in addition to enhancing the health of communities, and growing businesses. She said it’s also focusing on the future careers of young people.
Kress said the second “signature issue” area the are focusing on, is “Health and Well being,” in alliance with Governor Branstad’s Healthier State Initiative. The third signature issue, according to Kress, is “Food and the environment.” She says that focuses on “Local actions to produce a safe, sustainable, accessible and affordable food supply.” Kress said the fourth “Signature Issue” they’re focusing on at ISU Extension, is K-through 12 Youth Outreach, through STEM (or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. While STEM jobs are expected to grow by 16% this decade in Iowa, ACT test scores in 2009 indicated 50% of Iowa students were not ready for college-level mathematics study, while only 37% were ready for college-level work in the field of Science. ISU Extension has been recognized by the Governor’s Office, as one of the vital STEM “hubs,” tasked with increasing student preparedness for entering the STEM sectors. Kress said their goal is to “Get young people excited about learning, and discovering new career choices,” including those in the High Tech Sector in Iowa, with the idea being to encourage them to remain in the State and “Pursue an education beyond high school, and build skills that will continue to improve our communities across the State.”
Afterward, during the Q&A session, Kress was asked about how the Extension can help young people become aware of what goes on in manufacturing facilities, and why so-called “Middle skilled” workers are so desperately needed to fill those jobs. Kress said the manufacturers have brought that to their attention, and they are working to overcome the stereotype of high-tech jobs are merely those that belong to “rocket scientists,” or chemists. She says they’re trying to make sure that they build into their programming hands-on experience for young people, to create opportunities for high school internships and early years in college.
A program which will be incorporated into the STEM hub, is called “Into the Field,” which is intended to create shorter “excursions” into the workforce, which instead of a whole semester-long ordeal, would be for a week or so, to see first-hand what it’s like to work in manufacturing, and what skills and education are needed. She says they’re also looking at creating “Destination Science” web page, where educators, 4-H volunteers, boy scout leaders and others, can come and let it be known what their interests are, with the idea being to provide points of reference for manufacturing and campus visits. She also said there are opportunities to model some programs after what the World Food Prize organization is doing with the Youth Institute, which gives young people an opportunity to solve problems.