By SEAMEO STEM-ED
10 March 2023 ─ With the “STEM Career Academies Showcase” closing its curtain at STEM Fair and Expo 2023, summarizing its three-year success of over 1,000 beneficiaries ─ the academies also pass on the torch of hope for not leaving any youth behind. At the showcase, its legacy prolongs with the world’s professional career developers presenting their actions in bettering young talents.
STEM Career Academies was established in 2020 by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Centre for STEM Education (SEAMEO STEM-ED) with an ultimate determination to be a force for witnessing better-equipped talents (for society, country, and region).
The Academies are a compilation of education development models ─ focusing on preparing students for their future careers ─ or in this case, students’ growth (supported and sponsored by the "Chevron Enjoy Science" initiative).
For three years, STEM Career Academies operated across multiple disciplines that correlate with demanding occupations. The targeted areas included information technology, healthcare and wellness, smart agriculture, STEM teaching, and culinary arts. In addition, the Academies also brought renowned experts, well-established businesses, and trusted government agencies to co-create high-quality educational courses (sometimes considered career-focused curriculums).
As a consequence of the program’s success, the “STEM Career Academies Showcase” was held as a part of the “STEM Fair and Expo 2023” to demonstrate SEAMEO STEM-ED’s collaborative programs and share its successes with stakeholders.
Prior to the event, the Showcase aimed to elicit more collaborations among international and regional partners ─ and provide them with effective models for building inspiration and aspiration for the youth in the Southeast Asia region.
Meanwhile, the individual behind this program, SEAMEO STEM-ED Senior Specialist, Nuntawut Pimpaeng Senior Specialist in response to organizing the event highlighted, “This event marks grave importance to sharing good practices in career education and future workforce skill development programs ─ that have been implemented by public, private, and developmental agencies at national, regional, and international levels.”
Mr. Pimpaeng, who also pioneered much of Academies operations expressed that the STEM Career Academies program is based on a proven educational model focusing on preparing students for post-secondary education and career. The academies are designed to equip students with STEM-integrated skills and technical knowledge through career-focused curricula.
He further stressed that academies create an optimal learning environment for students to excel in higher education or professional career. It has been successfully implemented in the USA for over 50 years. The Career Academies’ curricula are relevant to industrial and economic needs. Through partnerships among high schools, local businesses, and post-secondary education institutions, the career academies’ curricula are designed to provide students with real-world experience and connect them with potential employers.
United at this event, renowned business leaders, global career developers, policymakers, and educators shared their insights on what initiatives they underwent in enhancing individuals’ skill development.
Common Vision Builds Strong Academy in Culinary
At the beginning of the showcase, SEAMEO STEM-ED’s long-lasted partner, Edu Park (an agency centered on improving Thai educational standards with engaging learning
experiences and environments) ─ discussed how collaboration is vital to producing effective outcomes.
For many years, SEAMEO STEM-ED and Edu Park have joined hands due to the common vision of sharpening the necessary skillsets and knowledge for the young generation, and for them to apply and adapt to their careers.
In the most recent initiative of “STEM Chef Academy”, a representative of Edu Park, Weeranuch Kamolrungvarakul, who is also the Project Director of STEM Chef Academy explained how STEM Chef Academy emerged under the umbrella of STEM Career Academies.
Through her talk titled “The Implementation Model of STEM Chef Academies”, she reasoned the idea behind selecting the culinary industry that ─ in a disruptive world, all-around skills must be implemented and new talented chefs are important to Thailand’s most famous industry.
Proven to stand amongst the top of the world, Thai food attracts individuals around the world and as a result, generates most of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As it demonstrates vast opportunities for the youth to capitalize, the STEM Chef Academy Director unfolded that the program launches students into a career, and at the same time ─ allows them to grasp future opportunities.
For the implementation, she underscored five criteria the STEM Chef Academy executed. They were networking (with relevant partners), developing strong curriculums (for students to follow); granting access to materials (setting up an online learning management system or LMS); recruiting (selecting and sponsoring students), training (organizing workshops for students to hone their skills), and connecting the students to an internship.
As the foundation for ensuring an effective result, she explained the STEM Chef Academy puts a high emphasis on networking. In particular, they collaborated with Thai renowned
chefs (from Master Chef and Top Chef television programs, and Le Cordon Blue Dusit graduate); as well as top domestic institutes (e.g., Institute of Nutrition, Mahidol University; College of General Education and Languages Thai-Nichi Institute of Technology, Enconcept, King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang; and Faculty of Home Economics Technology Rajamangala University of Technology Phra Nakhon).
Now, the STEM Chef Academy is steering its wheels toward an ambitious goal of assisting the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) whilst expanding to a larger audience.
Fellow SEAMEO Member Shares How They Build Inspiration for the Youth’s Future of Agriculture
The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEAMEO SEARCA), who also shared the same family name as STEM-ED Centre ─ as the next presenter, discussed insights into how they inspire the youth in agriculture technology and innovation.
SEAMEO SEARCA Program Specialist for Emerging Innovation for Growth, Engr. Christopher Cabardo (joined virtually) exampled important initiatives the SEARCA undertook to inspire the youth and act for sustainability in agriculture.
Engr. Cabardo first pointed out the case of the “School-Plus-Home Gardens Program (S+HGP)” which to the centre surpassed their initial expectation of improving school children’s nutrition, education, and economic well-being.
This participatory program was piloted in 6 schools in the Philippines (elementary and high schools) by introducing students to smart agriculture knowledge such as container gardening, hydroponics and aquaponics, and vertical gardening.
Through extensive and interactive courses, students were more interested in smart agriculture (nurturing plants from seeds to vegetables), and over time ─ they are more enthusiastic about consuming their own vegetables. Most importantly, participating students’ height, weight, and body mass index (BMI) records were significantly improved ─ whilst the program is later adopted by 90 schools in the Philippines.
Shifting to a more digitally-based program, Engr. Cabardo highlighted SEARCA’s “Digital Agriculture Platform” ─ where the centre tasked itself with modernizing traditional farming ─ and improving the livelihood of smallholder farmers ─ through digital agriculture.
The platform serves as a marketplace for vegetables and fruits, connecting farmers to end customers with a data-driven operation. Farmers who participated in this initiative are conveniently able to transport their products to the distribution center. In this matter, Engr. Cabardo said the majority of farmers in the Philippines are elders, and their kin were willingly involved in the packaging process.
In this matter, Engr. Cabardo said the majority of farmers in the Philippines are elders and their kin were willingly involved in the packaging process ─ and the success is demonstrated through the connection in families.
Another important event SEARCA initiated was “Innovation Olympics 2.0.” It was a national competition for the Philippines’ next-generation university students in ‘agri-startups.’ The competition challenged students to develop innovative solutions to help transform the food and agriculture sector under the topic of “Precision agriculture for small-scale vegetable farming.”
A total of thirty participating teams demonstrated capabilities of producing innovations and technologies in subjects of the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and precision agriculture ─ in which finalists are granted a reward for their capacity.
As he concluded his presentation, SEARCA vowed to continue the work in pioneering Southeast Asia’s education and human livelihood through future innovative programs.
IBM’s Online Platform Commits to Building Necessary Skills for the Near Future
International Business Machines (IBM) representative Nisagon Khongphaitoon spoke on “IBM SkillsBuild Power Your Future in Tech.” During the introduction, Ms. Khongphaitoon who is Corporate Social Responsibility Leader (IBM Singapore) debunked misconceptions about STEM education and its careers.
Citing an IBM study on “Tech Skills and Careers (published in February 2023)”, Ms. Khongphaitoon stressed many individuals believed acquiring skills in STEM is too expensive; digital credentials possess no value; and the path to a STEM career is only through a four-year degree.
Although such misconceptions posed various threats to the STEM community, the CSR Leader pointed it they also hold immense opportunities for many individuals. What she meant, was the possibilities of tapping into the underrepresented communities and transforming their lives.
One example to adhere to such issues is through an online platform IBM has developed and coined “SkillsBuild.” She explained this free educational development program focuses on underrepresented communities in the tech industry ─ and will assist individuals to develop new skills ─ and grant them access to career opportunities.
The crucial point Ms. Khongphaitoon underscored is that ─ IBM has sworn to skill 30 million individuals (globally) by 2023. In addition, through this free-to-access platform, underrepresented minorities, women, economically disadvantaged, veterans, neurodivergent, and refugees ─ could embark on a journey into a real tech career.
Career Education Model is Necessary for Preparing Future Workforce for All
Following IBM’s SkillsBuild, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Immersive Education Academy (iEd, Hong Kong), Mr. Octavian Cheung shed light on the importance of ‘Career Education.’
iEd is an Education Technology company based in Hong Kong focusing on English learning. The agency assists schools and teachers with interactive multimedia learning resources in order to assist local teachers and enhance the learning environment.
The Career Education Mr. Cheung referred to is an educational model by Arizona State University (ASU) utilized to scaffold teachers/educators, students, and institutions.
Furthermore, Mr. Cheung addressed that “we live in an interconnected, growing, and diverse labor market.” Mr. Cheung went on to say that the new GDP a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP, a free trade agreement or FTA between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) demonstrated immense opportunities for future labor demand. He underpinned that, “labor departments around the world recognize that there should be a better system to understand and plan career paths.”
Believing in the importance of Career Education, Mr. Cheung summarized educators, policymakers, businesses, and individuals shall be able to digest the understanding of careers.
The key messages Mr. Cheung conveyed in accordance with his statement, were if the understanding of emerging industries becomes more popularized and career interests for individuals are more engaging will lead to the discovery of career paths.
Mr. Cheung later urged Career Education adoption and localization that it provides a full cycle from students, institutions, and industry networks ─ in particular, it combines engagement, support, and training for the workforce.
National Career Academy Coalition Concludes Ways to Transform Schools, Teachings, and Businesses
To conclude the event, renowned career development expert, who is the President of the National Career Academy Coalition (NCAC, USA), Dr. Jay Steele disseminated “Best Practices of Career Academy Model from the USA.”
NCAC is an organization founded in 1996 with a mission to provide collaborative support and resources for existing and emerging career academies. NCAC believes the success of students is founded upon the network of support received from teachers, mentors, and business people that help students set long-term goals and stay on a clear path.
The NCAC President stressed on a ‘shift in education and school design’ ─ where he highlighted the United States transformation of student-centered institutions rather than adult focused.
“Over 7000 schools in the US have transformed the high school and middle school into the career academy design ─ by aligning themselves with high skill, high wage, and high demand in the community,” Dr. Steele said.
The rationale behind such transformation can be seen through the behavioral change in students since they strongly feel the lack of a sense of belonging. In this matter, he urged, “standardized testing is not the only measure for success, adding that,” in often cases students have their community and work available for them.”
Presenting a solution for students to grasp, Dr. Steele suggested, “a small, safe, and supportive learning environment that is contained within a larger high school setting.”
In addition, he shined on three major components that will transform a career launch ─ which were small learning community (comprised of students that take classes together for at least two-four years, taught by a team of teachers from different disciplines); college preparatory curriculum with a career theme; and partnerships with employers, the community, and local colleges which bring resources from outside the high school and provide experiential learning.
In the near future, STEM Career Academies will expand its reach to different parts of Southeast Asia while networking with leaders in the industries for students and their flourishing future.
More information on Edu Park: http://www.edupark.co.th/site/index.php
More information on SEAMEO SEARCA: https://www.searca.org/
More information on IBM’s SkillsBuild: https://skillsbuild.org/
More information on iEd: https://www.iedacademy.com/en
More information on NCAC: https://www.ncacinc.com/