UofM Herff College of Engineering Partners with Public and Private Sectors to Address STEM Workforce Needs

December 16, 2019 - Beyond traditional academic preparation for its students, the University of Memphis Herff College of Engineering partners with public and private sectors to address workforce needs.

“We understand that our students’ needs span beyond the classroom and begin prior to enrolling at the University of Memphis,” said Dr. Richard Sweigard, dean of the Herff College of Engineering. “By providing tools, programs and resources for our students, we are able to strategically help address the STEM workforce needs in Memphis and beyond.”

The West Tennessee STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Hub, which is housed in the Herff College, is one of seven regional STEM Innovation Hubs in Tennessee supported by the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network. The West Tennessee STEM Hub has an active steering committee to engage community partners and enhance K-12 STEM education in hopes of creating a pipeline of students to address future STEM workforce needs.

 The West Tennessee STEM Hub serves as a resource for West Tennessee to increase students’ interest in and preparedness for the STEM workforce through a variety of activities. The hub aims to unite K-12, institutes of higher education and STEM industry partners in an unprecedented approach to transforming STEM education and workforce opportunities throughout the region.

“If we can reach students at a younger age and demonstrate the immense value of a STEM education, we can better equip them for a fulfilling, successful experience throughout their collegiate career and after,” said Dr. Stephanie Ivey, director of the West Tennessee STEM Hub and associate dean for research at the Herff College.

 The Herff College of Engineering also has an active Advisory Council to help understand community and regional workforce needs, specific to its graduates as they enter the workforce. Sweigard convened a group of executives from industry and academia to offer input on how the college can recruit outstanding faculty, set priorities, impact future technologies and garner the additional resources necessary to bring the college to the next level of excellence, including acting as a resource for Memphis STEM workforce needs.

Regarding the medical device workforce, the Herff College of Engineering is a partner in implementing the MOVE-HIRE (Medical Device Occupations Value Education and Help In the Regional Economy) grant, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and administered locally through the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce. MOVE-HIRE provides engineering students real-world experience in the medical device industry. 

In Memphis, the medical device industry employs roughly 7,000 directly and 10,000 indirectly, generating $2.4 billion annually in economic impact for the local economy.

“The Memphis medical device industry is thriving, and employers need talented individuals to fulfill critical roles,” Sweigard said. “The MOVE-HIRE program provides our students with work experience and networking opportunities that complement their education, making them top candidates in the Memphis medical device community.”

 Outside of the UofM campus, the T-STEM Academy at East High School addresses STEM workforce needs as part of the Southeast Transportation Workforce Center at the UofM. The vision is that the high school and its collaborative partners will become a local, regional and national example for preparing students for STEM careers, with a particular focus on the transportation industry.

“Through these workforce partnerships, we are not only preparing our students to achieve in the STEM workforce, but we are also helping to increase the economic development of Memphis and the Mid-South,” said Ted Townsend, chief economic development and government relations officer for the UofM. “These graduates are able to retain high-paying positions in STEM and contribute to the local economy, which helps elevate the University but also betters the community it serves.”

The UofM is on a mission to continue to increase enrollment in STEM programs and help to address the needs of the STEM workforce in the Memphis area.