Building the Pipeline of STEM Talent for Tomorrow’s Workforce Needs E29
It’s no secret that Arizona is an attractive place for technology companies to call home. But with more technology companies being founded locally and relocating to Arizona from out-of-state, how can we ensure we have enough qualified technology talent to fill highly technical positions?
The August 2022 episode of the Arizona Technology Council’s AZTechCast podcast featured experts including Julie Bonner, director of communications at FreeFall Aerospace; Claire Conway, Arizona STEM ecosystem programs manager at SciTech Institute; and Betsy Hargrove, superintendent of the Avondale Elementary School District. These leaders joined Karen Nowicki, president and owner of Phoenix Business RadioX, and Steve Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council and SciTech Institute, in discussing the importance of STEM education in building the pipeline of technology talent for today and tomorrow’s workforce needs.
Throughout this hour-long episode, this panel of STEM experts spoke about how the growing number of technology companies calling Arizona home is creating an intensified demand for qualified talent to fill technical roles. But to hire talent effectively, our panel of experts recommended shifting the conversation away from “developing the pipeline of STEM talent” and towards focusing on students and their career pathways.
FreeFall Aerospace is developing innovative antenna solutions for space and ground systems. Expertise derived from radio astronomy at the University of Arizona and planetary exploration research from NASA JPL provides a new perspective on the challenges of high-frequency satellite communication.
FreeFall is proud to have received the Startup Innovator of the Year Award from the Arizona Commerce Authority and Arizona Technology Council.
Julie Bonner, Director of Communications for FreeFall Aerospace, connects partners, vendors, and investors to FreeFall’s innovative antenna systems. She’s developed branding and marketing campaigns for national corporations like Mister Car Wash and Clear Channel Outdoor to more Arizona-based start-ups and non-profits.
She has been awarded the Tucson AdFed Next Generation Award for significantly impacting the advertising industry through leadership, career achievements, and personal qualities. She is the Chair of the Women in the Workforce of the Arizona Technology Council, an organizer for CreativeMornings/Tucson, and is active in Local First Arizona and Start-Up Tucson.
Julie holds a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design from Drexel University and an MBA.
The Avondale Elementary School District was established in 1894. We have the highest percentage of A rated schools in the Southwest Valley. Located west of Phoenix, our district is home to nine schools ranging from preschool through eighth grade with several magnet programs.
We have been recognized at the national and state level for our passion and commitment for educational excellence. Having obtained numerous A ratings for our schools, we continue to be a leader in public education. We are proud to be the district of choice.
Dr. Betsy Hargrove has been the Superintendent of the Avondale Elementary School District (AESD) since 2012 after having served as the Assistant Superintendent since March 2009. She provides ongoing leadership in creating a positive climate of high expectations for all involved with the educational programs of the district.
She also works to engage in the continuous improvement of the Avondale educational community by implementing and monitoring the achievement of district goals and mission for every student to grow as a thinker, problem solver and communicator to pursue a future without limits. Ensuring this mission is reached, Dr. Hargrove and her team actively seek opportunities to build relationships with community stakeholders, business people and civic leaders to make connections within the district and sites.
The Avondale Elementary School District has embedded continuous improvement focus in all systems throughout the organization. Layering of high yield instructional practices, job embedded professional development, focused and collaborative accountability, and teacher and leader empowerment has demonstrated ongoing success. The result is that AESD has outperformed the state in growth in achievement four years in a row.
Dr. Hargrove has presented at the American Educational Research Association, Character Education Forum, National Staff Development Council Mega Conference, TAP National Conferences, 21st Century STEM Conference, Arizona School Administrators, National School Board Association, U.S. News STEM Solutions National Leadership Conference, School Connect Summit and American Association of School Administrators to share this approach and highlight the successes of the Avondale Elementary School District. Beyond the shared professional and academic accomplishments of the entire AESD community, Dr. Hargrove is most proud of her two daughters, Morgan and Clare.
SciTech Institute™ was established as the Arizona Technology Council Foundation as the conduit for collaboration among STEM industry, academia, civic, and non-profit organizations in Arizona. Now, rebranded and named the SciTech Institute™ the goal centers around aligning assets and resources to motivate individuals to pursue STEM-related educational and career paths or find a passion while engaged in community events during the SciTech Festival.
The Chief Science Officer program highlights the 6th-12th graders that have been selected as leaders in their schools and communities to receive training to build a world-class community of diverse STEM-literate workers and knowledgeable, engaged citizens. Science For All allows for tax credit donations to provide engaging experiences for students while RAIN (Rural Activation Innovation Network) focuses on resources for the rural areas of Arizona.
As a STEM Learning Ecosystem, SciTech Institute™ focuses on collaboration and connecting individuals with opportunities! STEM Professionals are encouraged to engage with the future workforce by serving as a mentor, leadership coach, panelist, keynote and session trainer during a variety of conferences hosted or sponsored by SciTech Institute™ and The Arizona Technology Council.
Teachers and Administrators are invited to connect with the resources available while activating a large network of STEM champions for student projects, judges at events, volunteers, exhibitors and more. SciTech Festival Event Coordinators are supported during the planning and execution of community STEM events around the state by the SciTech STREET Team Members and the growing network of volunteers. The possibilities are endless! SciTech Institute™ looks forward to connecting with you today. Visit SciTechInstitute.org today for more information.
Claire Conway serves as the Arizona STEM Ecosystem Programs Manager at SciTech Institute. In her role, she collaborates with STEM partners in industry, education, nonprofit, government, and community organizations across Arizona to develop regional STEM hubs that connect and align efforts in our local communities. She also coordinates statewide working groups on the future STEM workforce and STEM programming in Arizona libraries. As a facilitator of the Arizona STEM Ecosystem, she is a connection point between students such as the Chief Science Officers, educators, out-of-school programs, workforce opportunities, and industry experts.
Claire holds a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Southern California, where she conducted research in biomaterials and nanomedicine and coordinated volunteer programming for the university. An Arizona native and lifelong STEM enthusiast, she is passionate about fostering a STEM community where ALL students are able to chase their passions and access the many opportunities our state has to offer.
About AZ TechCast
AZ TechCast is dedicated to covering innovation and technology in Arizona and beyond.
Through the art of connected conversation, AZ TechCast’s guests will share their expertise, success stories, news and analysis about the region’s leading startups, companies and emerging technologies, as well as the latest industry trends and critical issues propelling the state’s growing technology ecosystem.
About Your Hosts
Steve Zylstra serves as president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council, a role he assumed in 2007. He is responsible for strategy, operations, finance and policy development. Zylstra is a vocal spokesman for the value technology can provide in raising social and economic standards in Arizona.
Zylstra serves on numerous councils, committees and boards, was named “Leader of the Year, Technology,” by the Arizona Capitol Times, and “Most Admired Leader” by the Phoenix Business Journal. In addition, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of science in technology from the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, Ariz.
Zylstra earned a bachelor’s degree in automotive engineering technology from Western Michigan University.
Karen Nowicki is a successful author, speaker and the creator of Deep Impact Leadership™ and SoulMarks Coaching™. She is a two-time recipient of the prestigious national Choice Award® for her book and personal development retreat. Karen was crowned the first-ever “Mompreneur of the Year” Award in 2010 for the southwestern states. She was recognized for her leadership, business acumen, and work-life balance.
Karen has been an expert guest on regional TV and radio shows, including Fox Phoenix Morning Show, Sonoran Living, Good Morning Arizona, The Chat Room, and Mid-Day Arizona. She has been a regular contributor to many print and online magazines – publishing articles and blogs for business and education.
In addition to working with private coaching clients, Karen is also the Owner & President of Phoenix Business RadioX. The Business RadioX Network amplifies the voice of business – serving the Fortune 500,000, not just the Fortune 500. Phoenix Business RadioX helps local businesses and professional associations get the word out about the important work they’re doing to serve their market, profession, and community.
Of all the experiences Karen has had the privilege of participating in over her vast career, she shares that Phoenix Business RadioX is a pinnacle adventure!
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Bianca Buliga is a trilingual first-generation American of Romanian ethnicity. A marketing professional with experience in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, Bianca currently works as Director, Marketing & Communications for the Arizona Technology Council.
Previously, Bianca worked as Marketing Communications Lead at Proctorio, a learning integrity platform that offers remote proctoring software ensuring exam integrity for learners around the world.
Bianca also worked as Senior Marketing Manager at SEED SPOT, a social impact incubator that educates, accelerates, and invests in impact-driven entrepreneurs creating market-based solutions to social problems. In January of 2020, Bianca was selected as an awardee of the Mandela Washington Reciprocal Exchange Program and traveled to the African island of Mauritius to run entrepreneurship programming for 15 impact-driven ecopreneurs on behalf of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Bianca has also completed comprehensive consulting projects for IBM, ESAN Business School, and the Peruvian government, and interned at the Arizona House of Representatives and U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, Romania.
Bianca earned her Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from Northern Arizona University in 2014 and her Master’s degree in Global Affairs and Management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in 2017. She is an avid reader, yogi, and world traveler always planning her next trip.
Connect with Bianca on LinkedIn.
About Our Sponsor
The Arizona Technology Council, Arizona’s only statewide organization serving the technology sector, fosters a climate of innovation to enhance technology in Arizona.
A trusted resource in strengthening Arizona’s technology industry, the Council proactively eliminates impediments that companies face, accelerates the entrepreneurial mindset in the state’s expanding innovation ecosystem, and works to create a destination for companies to be, thrive and stay.