iMAGINE Upstate seeks to inspire future workforce


Weeklong event next spring will put advanced manufacturing and STEM on stage


iMagineUpstateAs the manufacturing industry’s demand for a skilled and indigenous workforce continues to grow, local employers are placing increasing emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in Upstate schools. Industry leaders are laying the groundwork now for a Spring 2015 series of activities that will celebrate STEM, innovation, and creative and entrepreneurial activity in the Upstate. The weeklong series will kick off with CU-ICAR’s Millennium Drive event, said Ryan Heafy, executive director of iMAGINE Upstate.

iMAGINE Upstate is intended to generate “aha moments” for a future workforce, Heafy said. “The idea is to educate students, families and young professionals about the opportunities right here in our community.”

By showing students and parents additional career options and highlighting the differences between a two-year and four-year degree, “we hope to drive the Upstate’s future workforce development,” Heafy said.

[WATCH: UBJ hit the streets to find out what people in the Upstate thought about two-year versus four-year degrees. | Video by Susana Shetler]

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 4.59.46 PMThe future of the Upstate is centered on manufacturing and innovation, he said. As the demand grows and the supply dwindles, “we need to create homegrown talent to fill those jobs.”

Thomas Peters, executive director of the SC Coalition for Mathematics & Science, said iMAGINE Upstate will be a celebration of curiosity, innovation and learning. The program is a visible symbol of this region’s passion for progress and opportunity, he said, bringing together people of all ages and from all walks of life to explore the many ways STEM enriches lives.

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 5.01.42 PMAs the Upstate’s manufacturing sector becomes more complex, workforce demands require highly skilled workers, he said. “Imagining the next generation of our manufacturing workforce begins with the opportunities we present to our community today.”

The inaugural event will feature crowdsourced activities, including playing Tetris on the side of a downtown building, interactive sidewalks, presentations on college degrees, and a festival in downtown Greenville.


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