Engaging Our Future Workforce As A Community

When I was in middle school, I was more concerned with making the grade than applying the information. Work hard, be an honors student and stay active in afterschool programs – this is what I thought it meant to be an ideal student and prepare myself to be the ideal employee.

Now, the ideal employee might not be the one who thrived in the traditional classroom environment. Cramming for tests and doing only what is expected is not going to help grow students and prepare them for the workforce demands of tomorrow. From website developers to industrial engineers, today’s work environment has changed and the skills needed to grow professionally have changed with it.

I became involved with iMAGINE Upstate because I am part of generation that has seen great transformation and challenge in developing a clear career path. It is our responsibility to help inspire students and provide them with opportunities to align their education with the careers readily available.

In South Carolina, there is a strong demand for a workforce trained in skillsets specific to STEAM education. The South Carolina Coalition for Mathematics & Science is one group that is working to address this demand by advocating for constancy and quality in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the classroom. Supporting iMAGINE Upstate is one way that SCCMS is actively working to fulfill this mission.

iMAGINE Upstate is the result of community leaders like ScanSource, Duke Energy, Fluor, Michelin North America, GE, Bosch and Greenville Technical College coming together to make STEAM education engaging in an entirely new way. The program launched to create meaningful experiences that promote cultural and economic development by making STEAM education trendy inside and outside of the classroom.

In 2015, the festival took students outside of the classroom and let them experience education like never before. During the inaugural year, the iMAGINE Upstate festival brought 14,000 people to downtown Greenville for a day of hands on learning led by industry leaders who will eventually employee these students. This helped draw the connection between what is being taught in the classroom and the skills needed in the professional setting. Seeing children of all ages pack the street and truly engage in STEAM activities was spectacular. There are moments that change a community – I truly feel that this day was one of those moments.

The 2016 iMAGINE Upstate program will kick off on March 26, with two weeks of crowdsourced programs for all ages. This year we want to see companies, educational institutions and non-profit organizations work together to to provide quality programs for students while they are on their spring breaks across the Upstate.

How can we keep kids learning and inspired when they are out of the classroom? This is an opportunity to come together as a community to answer that question.

The two weeks of programming will surround the Second Annual iMAGINE Upstate Festival. The festival will be held on April 2, 2016 in the West End of downtown Greenville. The program is coming back bigger and better. Every year we plan to improve the experience and grow the impact. In order for iMAGINE Upstate to be influential, we constantly need to work to change with workforce demands and create experiences that are new to the Upstate community.

About the author:
Sarah Arbogast is a young community leader in South Carolina. Her career in community relations started in public relations and business development working with clients across the Upstate. After completing her graduate degree at Clemson University, she leveraged her experience in digital marketing analytics and played a lead role planning and carrying out strategic marketing programs for clients on a national level. An entrepreneur, she launched Scout Communications in 2014 to help grow small businesses and non-profit organizations through quality marketing and communication strategy. She joined the team who helped launch the iMAGINE Upstate program and now serves as the STEM Community Outreach Coordinator for the South Carolina Coalition for Mathematics & Science at Clemson University. In this role, she directs the iMAGINE Upstate program and works to help better prepare Upstate students for the workforce demands of tomorrow. She serves on the board of Reedy Point, Feed & Seed, Young Executives of the Commerce Club and as the president-elect of Rotaract. She is actively involved with organizations like Blessings in a Backpack, The Children’s Museum of the Upstate and Roper Mountain Science Center. To learn more or to get involved with SCCMS or iMAGINE Upstate please contact Sarah Arbogast at sarah.arbogast@imagineupstate.org or visit www.imagineupstate.org.

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