ECU is a partner in a new collaborative effort to connect talented young students to potential careers in science, technology, engineering, art/design and mathematics (STEAM). The program may lead young people to pursue studies in areas such as biomedical engineering, a new master's program at ECU. Pictured above, ECU students Tyree Parker and Grace Baran perform engineering processes in a biomedical lab on campus. (Photo by Jay Clark)


ECU to partner in robust education-to-workforce pipeline

June 16, 2014

By Kelly Setzer
ECU News Services

East Carolina University is partnering on a comprehensive, hands-on initiative aimed at fueling a regional advanced manufacturing and innovation workforce beginning with middle school students.

The Golden LEAF Foundation has announced a $1.25 million grant to support the plan.

The Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Academy and associated Master eSTEAM Instructor program are the result of a unique collaboration among middle school parents, students and teachers, East Carolina University, Pitt Community College, Pitt County Schools, North East Carolina Preparatory School (Edgecombe County), P.S. Jones Middle School (Beaufort County), STEM East, economic developers and regional advanced manufacturers.

Pitt County students Adrianne Freeman, left, and Jasmine Foreman visited ECU in February for STEM Day, which focuses attention on careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Freeman and Foreman were examining a miniature car that was created using ECU's 3-D printer. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Once implemented, the program will provide an effective education-to-workforce pipeline to address the growing shortage of eastern North Carolina advanced manufacturing workers and entrepreneurs, technically skilled in science, technology, engineering, art/design and mathematics (STEAM), as well as innovation and entrepreneurship (e) processes.

In addition to the schools in Edgecombe and Beaufort counties, all 13 Pitt County middle and K-8 schools will be included in the program.

“ECU and the College of Engineering and Technology will help prepare these middle school students by exposing them to the tremendous career opportunities that lie before them and developing the academic and technical skills that are required for employment in this industry,” said David White, dean of ECU’s College of Engineering and Technology.

Recognizing the economic development possibilities to engage, equip and connect talented young people with regional advanced manufacturing careers and related entrepreneurial opportunities, the group of regional partners developed a comprehensive plan for enhancing students’ creative, innovation and technical skills, knowledge and abilities. The plan includes career awareness strategies, eSTEAM-related in-school and out-of-school curriculum and experiences, and professional development opportunities for 78 eastern North Carolina teachers.

Middle School Innovators Academy student Logan Stox works with Jim Menke to build blue foam models of their innovations. A new program will expand the current academy and enhance its focus on STEAM topics.

Crucial to the success of the initiative is the inclusion of art and design to an otherwise technically-focused program. “I am thrilled that this project seeks to marry the creative energies of the arts with the STEM disciplines. It is truly a unique way of stimulating innovation that will create exciting opportunities for the students involved and significant long term benefits for our region,” said Chris Buddo, dean of ECU’s College of Fine Arts and Communication.

The academy is an innovative new approach piloted in this section of the state and was recommended by Pitt County Manager Scott Elliott. The successful cross-institutional collaboration is the first of its kind and may be replicated in other projects, said Wanda Yuhas, executive director of Pitt County Development Commission.

The grant will be administered by ECU's Office of Innovation and Economic Development, as the program is aimed at supporting existing and future advanced manufacturing employers in eastern North Carolina with an innovative, skilled and capable workforce.

“This innovative approach is all about talent enhancement and retention and has the potential to be an economic development game changer,” said Ted Morris, associate vice chancellor of ECU’s Innovation and Economic Development office. “We are all excited to implement such a forward-thinking program and for this unique opportunity to stimulate true regional transformation.”


The Golden LEAF Foundation awards grants to 501(c)(3) nonprofits and governmental entities across North Carolina. Golden LEAF's grantsmaking focuses on three priorities: agriculture, job creation and retention, and workforce preparedness. Projects that focus on other opportunities to support and develop economic strength in tobacco-dependent, economically distressed, and/or rural communities continue to be welcomed.


Golden LEAF Foundation president Dan Gerlach, right, announced the $1.25 million grant to grow a skilled local workforce during a press conference in Greenville June 16. Listening are ECU Innovation Academy Director Wayne Godwin, left, and Ted Morris, associate vice chancellor of Engagement, Innovation and Economic Development. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)