‘LinkedIn for students’ pairs with state firms to launch STEM initiative

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State firms hope to use sports recruiting methods to build the workforce pipeline, leaders announced today at the 5th annual South Carolina Automotive Summit in Greenville. The initiative – SC Future Makers – plans to showcase the advanced facilities and elevated salaries of South Carolina’s manufacturing industry, then sign them on with a ‘LinkedIn for students’ platform from Mt. Pleasant-based STEM Premier.

“Students know that they have to be able to vertical jump 38 inches … to get into the NFL,” said STEM Premier Co-Founder and President Donald Tylinski, a 35-year education industry veteran. “But what do you need to do to get into that company or that company or that company? You don’t know until you’re told. Then you have something to strive for.”

South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance and the S.C. Department of Commerce partnered with STEM Premier on S.C. Future Makers, expected to launch within the year. The main site will include original content that micro-targets students with either an interest or skills related to STEM careers, and will help manufacturers reach and engage with students as they go through school, said SC Manufacturers Alliance Marketing Director James Richter.

“This gives someone an opportunity, despite their geographic or economic situation, to show their talents and get seen,” he said. “There’s nothing out there right now, in South Carolina or the nation, that gives that kind of opportunity to get seen by world class companies.”

SC Future Makers has already produced videos of S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley and young STEM employees in some of the state’s largest manufacturing companies – BMW, Bridgestone and Boeing, for example – and will provide access to industry salary estimates, downloadable materials for educators, skill-building resources and how to set up a STEM Premier profile.

“We’re anticipating quite an impact on the Upstate region,” said Richter, who said he expects to onboard more companies, schools and students in the coming months. “Maybe we have already reached out to some welders and that’s a one-time hit. This will allow us to continue giving them new information on a regular basis, let them know about new opportunities that have popped up.”

Founded in 2013, STEM Premier lets students build a profile of their academics, skills and experience and connects them directly to employers for more information on the industry, the company, internships, and employment opportunities. The process is similar to college athlete recruiting models, or how professionals use sites such as LinkedIn.

“We need connectivity, we need the kids who were interested to be able to connect with employers, and we need to measure how they were getting to where they needed to go,” said South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance President and CEO Lewis Gossett. “Schools in South Carolina … are not judged by whether or not they get into the workforce. We’re changing that with this.”

Gossett said the initiative reached to 17 school districts and 50 schools so far, but more were on the way. STEM Premier Co-Founder and COO Casey Welch said the platform brought on 100,000 student profiles from 10,300 high schools nationwide last year.

“What we’re doing with Future Makers is giving you a way to tell your story … and talk to millennials in the way they communicate,” said Casey, speaking to the crowd of manufacturing professionals in downtown Greenville. “One of those important components is for them to know who you are earlier so they don’t just find out about you at a college career fair.”

STEM Premier doesn’t charge students or companies to sign up and create profiles, and instead charges for detailed searches, messaging and data analytics.

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