Tue | Nov 30, 2021

National gives major BOOST to STEM education

Published:Wednesday | April 28, 2021 | 12:27 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer
Professor Dale Webber (second left), pro-vice chancellor and principal of The University of the West Indies, Mona, and Gary Hendrickson (right), chairman and CEO of National Baking Company and patron of National Baking Company Foundation, point to the inve
Professor Dale Webber (second left), pro-vice chancellor and principal of The University of the West Indies, Mona, and Gary Hendrickson (right), chairman and CEO of National Baking Company and patron of National Baking Company Foundation, point to the investment into the BOOST programme for STEM educators on Tuesday. Looking on are Professor Michael Taylor (left), dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology, and Brian Jardim, chairman of the National Baking Company Foundation.

Tuesday’s official signing of an agreement for the establishment of the National Baking Company Foundation STEM Enhancement Scholarship Fund will be a major game-changer in developing a cadre of quality educators in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), says Professor Michael Taylor.

The launch of the Building Out Our STEM Teachers (BOOST) Programme between the foundation and The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, will drive investment of J$159.6 million over a six-year period in critical fields viewed as the engine of the new economy.

“It provides them with employment immediately upon graduation and supplies the education sector with a steady stream of new STEM teachers each year,” said Taylor, dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology.

In the long run it will enhance STEM competencies in the future workforce and thereby contribute to national development. It is a win-win for all involved.”

Developed in response to the pressing need for quality STEM teachers in the classroom, BOOST is seen as a “back-end incentivised scholarship scheme”.

In 2017-18, the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report ranked Jamaica at 73 out of 137 countries in terms of the quality of science and math education.

For each of the next six years, a new cohort of National Baking Company fellows representing the best science and education graduates from The UWI will be placed in high schools to teach STEM subjects. They will, in turn, receive a scholarship equivalent to the cost of one year of their university tuition for each year they spend in the programme, up to three years, with a further incentive payment for excellent performances.

The fellows will also benefit from specially designed mentorship schemes, summer training, and outreach programmes, as well as networking opportunities.

AIMING TO BUILD EMPOWERED PEOPLE

Chairman and CEO of the National Baking Company and patron of the foundation, Gary ‘Butch’ Hendrickson, shared his vision for the goals of this investment in Jamaica’s development agenda.

“A revolving cohort of the best science and math graduates is one way to increase the number of STEM of teachers. This will eventually help to build empowered communities, besides enhancing the capacity of The University of the West Indies to assist and guide young Jamaicans towards a more prosperous future,” said Hendrickson.

Meanwhile, pro-vice-chancellor and principal of The UWI, Mona Campus, Professor Dale Webber, said that the programme was aligned with its mandate to provide expertise and innovation for national development.

“BOOST is an example of just the kind of academia-private sector-government partnerships which are needed to solve pressing issues of national importance,” said Webber.

“It is The UWI’s hope that other companies will follow the National Baking Company Foundation example and partner with The UWI for national and regional development.”

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com