High Desert-Mountain Leaders Are Re-Engineering their Workforce STEAM 2020-a Local Initiative for Economic Success

By Dale Marsden, Ed.D., Superintendent Victor Elementary School District

Imagine a Desert-Mountain region where every student graduates from high school concurrently with their community college degree or a vocational, technical or trade school equivalent certificate in a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, or Math) related career field. Well that is exactly what is happening in this region! From Victorville to Hesperia, Apple Valley to Adelanto, and Baker to Big Bear, leaders from five key sectors – Public, Private, Higher Education, K-12, and Service and Faith-Based Organizations – are entering into a collective effort, which will align regional resources to ensure a systemic approach that ultimately re-engineers its workforce.

What does this look like on the ground and in the trenches? It all started with a kick-off event last summer when a score of community and educational leaders came together to draw a line in the sand and make a commitment to this goal:

By 2020, every child and adult in the Desert-Mountain region will be prepared for the 21st Century workforce by achieving their high school diploma concurrently with their community college degree, or vocational, trade or technical school equivalent certificate, in a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts or Math) related field.

Every person who attended the event pledged their commitment, including Mayor Ryan McEachron, Community College President Dr. Christopher O’Hearn, Chamber of Commerce CEO Michele Spears, and several other key community and educational leaders. From this meeting, and with the assistance of Inland Empire Economist, Dr. John Husing, and leading Commercial Real Estate Broker, Joseph W. Brady, CCIM, SIOR, President of the The Bradco Companies and Trustee for the Victor Valley Community College, the stage was set in November for a Solutions Summit.

Nearly 300 key sector leaders joined together during the Summit to hear presentations from: Craig Garrick, CEO of Aviation Assurance, explaining how his business is prepared to grow from 250 employees to over 2,500; Dr. Gary Thomas, County Superintendent of Schools, on just how desperate things are in our current educational system and a high school diploma is no longer enough; Joseph W. Brady, highlighting the potential for the region and what every leader must do to take advantage of the opportunities in their own backyard. The keynote speaker for the event, Dr. John Husing, left the audience with an unquestionable understanding that the key to the region’s success is a re-engineering of its educational system to ensure a prepared workforce. Key leaders then divided into groups to establish strategies or “Solutions” to achieve the STEAM 2020 Goal, and to better align regional resources to this end.

Some of the solutions developed during this inaugural Summit included the development of a Speakers Bureau of leaders from the community, Increasing parent knowledge about educational opportunities in the region, Creating Virtual Field Trips to local businesses, Increased Internships, and Increased Access to Certificate programs at Victor Valley College. This was a passionate group who all wanted to participate in following up on next steps to ensure implementation of these key strategies to achieve the goal.

Since the November meeting, much has taken place. Later in December, a workgroup of about 60 key leaders came together to draft strategicobjectives, metrics and action plans to achieve STEAM 2020. In January, a smaller representative group hammered out the details to include three key strategic goals for the initiative: Career Readiness, Communication, and Funding. Action steps outlined plans for a K-16 student tracking systems to electronically monitor the success of each child; there was a call for comprehensive “soft skills” training, including financial life planning; a plan to survey employers to assess gaps in the school curriculum; a plan to establish a communication center for STEAM goal engagement and development; and a plan to target regional resources and develop key sponsorships and funding for programmatic goals.

In addition to these meetings, education and business leaders participated in several workplace tours of local manufacturing and research and development firms. During the tour of Scott Turbon Mixer in Adelanto, students from Sultana High School in Hesperia filmed the entire tour to begin a series of virtual field trips so more students can experience the real world of work in their own community. Craig Garrick, CEO of Aviation Assurance, asked us to be sure when kids come to tour local businesses, we bring their parents with them! Once leaders finished the first half of the day at Scott Turbon, they headed over to Exquadrum, a small but very powerful Research and Development firm in Adelanto and listened to Vice President & Chief Operating Office Eric Schmidt explain about the skills needed for developing the latest technologies for the Warrior. This is rocket science!

Now with action plans established, next steps include having a community cabinet in each city or town comprised of key sector leaders who will meet regularlyto monitor progress. Additionally, representatives from each participating city and town will attend regional meetings where all resources will be presented and aligned to fit the tailored needs of each area within the region. As this work continues, the Desert-Mountain region is already looking ahead to build capacity for long-term strategic success. Several national models for community engagement have been studied and the region, under the leadership of the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Alliance for Education, plans to align itself to the nationally recognized STRIVE Together Model out of Ohio. Its slogan is “Cradle to Career” – what an amazing testimony of one community’s efforts to ensure success for all. For additional information, you may contact Dr. Dale Marsden, regional lead for the STEAM 2020 initiative, at

Dr. Dale Marsden is superintendent of the Victor Elementary School District, one of the county’s highest performing districts, and member of the executive board for the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Alliance for Education. Dale and his family have lived in the High Desert since 1990.

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