mindSpark Learning (mSL), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit headquartered in Denver, Colorado, is dedicated to reengineering education and empowering educators. mSL fundamentally believes that education is the answer to the world’s greatest problems. However, the education system alone cannot create the change the world, workforce, and students need. Thus, mSL serves as the catalytic intermediary between K-12, higher education, and industry to mobilize diverse communities, create strategic partnerships, and generate sustained economies.
Reengineering education begins with school systems understanding workforce development, participating in work-based learning experiences, fostering career literacy, and directly connecting students to mentors and authentic learning opportunities. mSL is driving this urgency for change with professional learning specifically built to incorporate the voice of education, industry, and government leaders.
The focus on building strategic partnerships between education and industry makes mSL unique. Specializing in Equity-Centered Design Thinking, Education Technology, STEM, and Problem-Based Learning, mSL is unprecedented. All professional learning opportunities are embedded with the skills necessary to succeed in the modern work environment. Moreover, mSL offerings are 100% customizable, created in collaboration with clients to ensure their individual needs are met. Options range from week-long institutes, to one or two-day sessions, to a nine-month Education Accelerator, to STEMpath.
What challenge is this solution working to address?
STEM jobs are among the fastest growing in the nation, accounting for more than 50 percent of major industry employment opportunities. Yet, in 2015, STEM job postings outnumbered unemployed STEM workers by a factor of almost 17 to one. Moreover, employers face the reality of a workforce that does not possess the computational thinking and interdisciplinary problem-solving skills necessary for today’s jobs. Industry partners have funded myriad student STEM programs in attempts to create a sustainable pipeline of STEM employees. However, these attempts will prove insufficient. There is a missing link that impedes the sustainability of education-to-employment pathways: highly-qualified teachers.
It is amidst the current climate of a STEM/CS workforce that is desperate for skilled workers and reeling from teacher shortages and insufficient teacher preparation programs, that mSL presents STEMpath: the revolutionary teacher preparation pathway that will meet the needs of educators, students, and ultimately, the workforce. STEMpath is a graduate-level teacher certification program that provides educators with the competence, relevance, capacity, and skills to teach STEM and computer science, while earning 24 graduate level credits. This 12- month program fuses three critical components of teacher preparation and intertwines them into one unparalleled learning experience: it combines work-based learning through industry externships; graduate-level CS coursework (in algorithms and programming, IT systems, and cybersecurity regulations and laws); and professional learning (in career literacy, information science, and equity-centered design thinking). Teachers are the key to a sustainable STEM pipeline. STEMpath will increase the number of highly-qualified STEM and CS teachers, create relevancy and excitement for students, and ultimately increase the number of skilled, high-need students entering the STEM workforce: this is systemic change.
This solution is agile because…
it leverages strategic partnerships to deliver innovative work-based and professional learning experiences, positively impacting educators and students alike. Developing an agile workforce demands a paradigm shift in teacher preparation. STEMpath is the catalyst the education landscape has been waiting for and the economy demands.