The Appalachia Partnership Initiative's Investments in Education, Workforce Development, and the Community

Analysis of the First Stage, 2014–2016

by Gabriella C. Gonzalez, Shelly Culbertson, Nupur Nanda

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Research Questions

  1. Were APIs programs and activities aligned with the APIs vision and strategy, as documented in the API Strategic Framework?
  2. What was the geographic scope of API programs, and which beneficiaries did the programs reach?
  3. How sustainable were the API programs?
  4. What steps did API leaders take to catalyze a community of stakeholders to work toward similar goals?

This report assesses the Appalachia Partnership Initiative's (API's) progress toward its vision of fostering a sustainable STEM education and energy and manufacturing workforce development ecosystem in the tristate Appalachia region of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia during the first years of the API: October 2014 through July 2016. Interim assessments will be conducted annually from 2016 to 2019. A final summative evaluation, forthcoming in 2020, will analyze the effect of API efforts through time.

The tristate region has a strong need for workers to fill jobs in the energy and advanced manufacturing industries, with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)–related skills in demand. Recognizing the challenge of meeting STEM workforce demands, the Chevron North America Appalachian Mountain Business Unit, along with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, launched the API in 2014, with the Grable Foundation and Catalyst Connection becoming members shortly thereafter. Between 2014 and 2016, the API began investing in initiatives to increase awareness around STEM careers; support the acquisition of STEM-related skills among kindergarten through 12th grade (K–12) and adult students; engage industry in workforce development; and enlarge STEM-collaborative networks across 27 counties in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. We analyzed how aligned API programs' activities and goals were with API's vision, the locations of programs, who the program reached, the programs' sustainability, and the early steps API leaders took in developing a STEM ecosystem in the tristate Appalachia region.

Key Findings

Horizontal Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing Has Created a Need for Workers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia

  • In the long term, the tristate region has a strong need for workers with STEM-related skills.
  • The Social Investment Team of the Chevron North America Appalachian Mountain Business Unit, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation launched the API in 2014 to meet the challenge of enhancing the STEM workforce the tristate area. The Grable Foundation and Catalyst Connection became members shortly thereafter.

Between 2014 and 2016, the API Began Investing in Initiatives Around STEM Education and Careers

  • The API began to support the acquisition of STEM-related skills among K–12 and adult students; engage industry in workforce development; and enlarge STEM-collaborative networks across 27 counties in the three states.

API Programs Incorporated Hands-On and Project-Based Instructional Models That Aimed to Improve Skills Acquisition

  • Programs operated in all 27 counties targeted by the API and had reached more than 70,000 people, mostly through K–12 STEM education opportunities.
  • While programs engaged with industry leaders, few workforce programs focused specifically on transitioning workers.

API Can Further Its Vision for the Region by Broadening Regional Awareness of STEM Career Opportunities

  • API can strengthen its commitment to STEM teacher training and facilitate collaboration across program, government, university, and funder networks.
  • To support the longer-term financial sustainability of programs, API could further leverage existing networks of STEM education and workforce development stakeholders; these networks offer opportunities to engage long-lasting sources of support within the region.

Recommendations

  • Continue to gauge participants' perceptions and awareness of STEM careers and API programs by implementing a survey.
  • Map pathways between K–12 education and middle-skill jobs; career pathways are models that show which skills, degrees, and certifications can lead to specific STEM-related careers and middle-skilled jobs.
  • Fill programming gaps, particularly through a coordinated strategy to promote stakeholder awareness of STEM careers, pre-service teacher training, and additional workforce development programs for dislocated and transitioning workers.
  • Strengthen and expand networks of relationships with regional funders, with API serving as a strategic facilitator between funders and programs.
  • Determine priority challenges for API to focus on solving, as a regional analysis of the most significant challenges facing K–12 STEM education and workforce development is missing.
  • Sponsor tristate meetings for K–12 STEM education, similar to the Tristate Shale Summit that API leaders cosponsored.
  • Focus on deepening connections among API workforce development programs.
  • Craft a broad strategy for policy engagement to support tristate education and workforce development; now that API has established a track record, it is well positioned to develop and advocate for strategic policy goals at the state-, city-, or district-level for K–12 STEM education and workforce development.

This research was sponsored by the Appalachia Partnership Initiative (API) and conducted within RAND Education and RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment.

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