Diversity & Inclusion
Education / Jobs / STEM / Workplace culture

FAME’s new initiative puts the focus on developing the workforce locally

The Forum to Advance Minorities in Engineering is working to develop and promote the state's talent pipeline from high school on up via its new Talent Engagement Connection program.

FAME CEO Don Baker. (Photo by Holly Quinn)

This editorial article is a part of Technical.ly's Workforce Development Month of our editorial calendar.

Correction: Tallo is based in South Carolina, not North Carolina. (11/22/19, 9:53 a.m.)

Delaware has a long tradition of importing talent to the state. Companies such as MBNA and AstraZeneca have all drawn scores of out-of-state talent — many of whom eventually moved away, leaving long-term residents to deal with the economic impact of another corporate purge.

In many cases, especially when it comes to communities of color in Wilmington, Newark and Dover, those opportunities were never meant for locals.

DuPont, which certainly imported a ton of talent to Delaware over the years before the Dow merger, had enough self-awareness about this issue that it formed FAME (Forum to Advance Minorities in Engineering) in 1976, and it’s been offering programs in STEM ever since.

Today, FAME is working toward reinventing the Delaware talent pipeline.

“I’m from here,” CEO Don Baker told Technical.ly. “I’ve traveled, but I came back, and I have children. And we know there are so many students here that think that there’s not an opportunity here for them. We want to build up our students for the opportunities that are here.”

To help achieve that, FAME is working toward a wider goal for all public school students: On Thursday, a group of educators, local government reps, and folks from the economic development sector gathered at The Queen to learn more about the TEC (Talent Engagement Connection) initiative to develop and promote Delaware’s talent pipeline from high school on up.

Central to the TEC initiative is the South Carolina-based platform Tallo, which matches students with potential job paths, helps them find the best match for post-high school education, school funding and, ultimately, connects them with potential employers looking for talent in the area.

FAME’s version of the platform will also incorporate Pathways — so, for example, if a student on an engineering Pathway completes a level or task, a vetted badge will appear on their profile, helping potential employers have a better understanding of what they’ve learned.

“Our goal is to have every high school student [in Delaware] involved that is able to,” said Baker. “We know that there are other initiatives, but we have a solution now, and it’s supercharged and ready to help students and families and corporations, too.”

(Important note: The program serves students regardless of race, though a large number of public school students are from underrepresented groups.)

One of the challenges for corporations looking for talent locally, and for young people looking for companies where they can use their skills, is that companies often get put into a box due to lack of awareness, Baker said.

“Our students don’t know what these corporations have to offer,” he said. “We were at FMC two days ago and [they] said, ‘We are so much more than ag — we’ve got jobs across the board.’ And we want to make that clear.”

Some of the goals might sound surprising to some. As Jen Porter, director of workforce development at Tallo, presented a demonstration of the platform, she noted that one of the goals is to reduce the number of students who automatically choose a four-year college option when it may not be the right fit for their interests and talents.

“We actually want to get that number down,” Porter said. “In South Carolina when we started, something like 90% of students on the platform planned to attend a four-year college. Now it’s closer to 65%, which is in line with the job market.”

One example she gave was Cummins Diesel, which used Tallo to find two people for an apprenticeship program that leads directly to a job with the company. They wound up taking on five apprentices instead — and now use the platform to find students on a college path, covering their tuition if they’re accepted into one of their programs.

A custom career path could include an associates’ degree, four years of college (or more), or a path directly into work.

“I can’t emphasize enough how much this aligns with the strategic plan we’re currently doing in Red Clay,” said Sam Golder, director of secondary schools for the Red Clay Consolidated School District. “This is an absolute direct alignment. We’ve talked about the emphasis on the fact that not all of our students are four-year-college-going students. We have a history as educators of not celebrating [those] students.”

This year, the district had its first Career Signing Day (not unlike a College Signing Day), held at Thomas McKean High School, where 45 students walked the stage with their future employers.

Speakers at the Thursday event included Michele Hengey, community investor with Boeing Global Engagement, one of TEC’s national partners, and Rick Deadwyler of Corteva, an agriscience company headquartered in Wilmington and a local TEC partner. Those companies and Discover Bank are also part of the partnership that will offer Tallo profiles to every Delaware high school free of charge during the 2019-2020 school year.

See Deadwyler’s remarks about the Delaware workforce, agtech and the future of the state’s economic development here:

Companies: Boeing / DuPont
Series: Workforce Development Month 2019

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