Education Innovator — Sigma-Aldrich invests in Missouri’s youth to build tomorrow’s workforce
As a global life sciences company, Sigma-Aldrich needs Missouri to develop new scientists for the future. To ensure that happens, the company has become involved in education and getting young people interested in science.
“Workforce development is greatly important to the future of Sigma-Aldrich,” says Rakesh Sachdev, president and CEO. “We see fewer students in Missouri choosing to enter into STEM professions. For our business—and the region as a whole—to succeed, we need a pipeline of qualified employees for a STEM economy.”
The company believes it is important for today’s students to know how what to apply their educational knowledge to the real world. Sigma-Aldrich has also encountered many students who don’t get enough hands-on science opportunities, which is a problem that’s been amplified by tightening school districts’ fiscal resources.
In response, the company has launched Sigma-Aldrich Science Partners, which provides teachers with direct access to scientists who can deliver science-based curriculum and activities that give students the opportunity to see science at work. A number of Sigma-Aldrich employees are already working in classrooms in two districts within the St. Louis Metropolitan Area. The company would like to expand the program to reach more than 30,000 students in 15 countries within five years.
Sigma-Aldrich is also a founding member of STEMpact, a collaborative funding effort focused on increasing professional development for educators in grades K-8 in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. To date, STEMpact has reached more than 250 teachers and created a direct impact on more than 15,000 students in the St. Louis area.
Early indicators are very positive. Students have posted an eight-point increase in math scores and a ten-point increase in science scores on standardized tests after their teachers participated in STEMpact’s professional development workshops.
To make these programs work, Sigma-Aldrich relies on employees who are active and engaged in the process.
“Our employees are involved first hand,” Sachdev says. “They’re suggesting new ideas for curriculum based on what they do in the laboratory. They’re implementing these programs in their own communities and connecting educators with resources at Sigma-Aldrich. We also have employees who are participating in community forums to talk about industry needs and perspectives, which gives educators a better understanding of what will be expected out of their students post-graduation.”
Sachdev says Sigma-Aldrich isn’t looking for immediate benefits from its work in education. Rather, the company wants to ensure the region has a solid math and science workforce for the future.
“We understand that to make an impact means making a long-term investment in Missouri and its students,” he says. “Regionally, the growth and expansion of entrepreneurial activity in the STEM economy, specifically in biosciences in St. Louis, is a precursor to what we believe will be an engine for growth for the state. Making sure that we have a strong pipeline of STEM-prepared individuals will help us position the state for strong economic growth and prosperity.”