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Building Industry/Education Partnerships For Tomorrow’s Workforce Tech Careers: "I Am The Future"

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Approaches to K -12 Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.297.1 - 11.297.9



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Paper Authors


Leslie Wilkins Maui Economic Development Board

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Ms. Wilkins is Vice President of the Maui Economic Development Board and is Program Director of its Women Technology Project. An experienced advocate for workplace equity, served as National President of the Business & Professional Women’s organization in 2001. Appointed by the Hawaii governor to two terms on the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, she was Commission Chair from 1996 - 2003.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


The Women in Technology Project (WIT), launched in fall 1999, encourages women and girls in the in the state of Hawaii to pursue science, technology, education and math (STEM) careers. Primary research conducted by WIT’s parent organization, the Maui Economic Development Board2 (MEDB), revealed that employers in Hawaii’s technology sector pay dearly when they are forced to import employees. Recruitment and relocation expenses are significant because of Hawaii’s remote location and turnover of transplants is high: they stay an average of only 2 years. This research inspired an industry-led workforce development initiative to build a trained resident workforce to address these challenges. Technology industry employers were willing to commit to long-term investment in cultivating Hawaii’s own engineering talent, including the relatively untapped resources of women and minorities that are underrepresented in this field.

In 2000, MEDB formally placed workforce development as its top program priority and launched a partnership with businesses and educators to encourage a healthy pipeline from education to employment in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). MEDB’s newly launched Women in Technology Project, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Labor led the efforts. Before this initiative, no other workforce program in Hawaii had been created with the scope, industry clout and resources to reach young women and underrepresented populations during their high school years when career goals begin to take shape. The signature event of this initiative is an annual career day designed to expose local high school students to, and spark interest in, STEM courses and career opportunities.

WIT analyzes enrollment statistics in the UH system and looks at levels of women majoring in chemistry, computer science, mathematics, physics, astronomy and engineering. Since WIT ‘s inception in 1999, women have steadily been about 57% of the total students enrolled, but only about 28% of the students are women in these majors. As of Fall 2004 this was still case. In its planning for the event, WIT emphasized recruitment of historically under-represented students, including females, Pacific Islanders, socio-economically challenged and academically at-risk students. Due to Department of Education policies it is not possible to survey students with regards of their ethnicity or socio-economic status, which research is further limited by the inability to track students after participation.

Year One

The first “Tech Careers: I Am The Future” day was held in 1999, before WIT became involved. Members of MEDB met with teachers from a private school and Department of Education administrators to design the day’s activities. MEDB met with key industry personnel to gather information on the types of technology careers available locally. On the first day of spring break, 50 students, teachers and counselors attended the first annual event at the Maui Research and Technology Park (Park).

The program was designed to complement existing School to Work, Career Day and tech awareness efforts already conducted by local schools. Eight local technology companies

2 The Maui Economic Development Board is a private nonprofit organization, well-respected for its leadership in helping to diversity Maui County’s economy through the development of the high technology industry.

Wilkins, L. (2006, June), Building Industry/Education Partnerships For Tomorrow’s Workforce Tech Careers: "I Am The Future" Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1365

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