Students Flock to NECC Engineering Program
Two years ago, when Nathaniel Clark sat down with his parents to discuss college plans, they all agreed that Northern Essex’s Engineering Program was the smartest choice for the honors student. He was already taking classes through the college’s Early College Program, and was having a positive experience.
The Amesbury resident, who graduated from Northern Essex with an Associate Degree in Engineering Science in May 2014, says he would make the same choice again. Now, like many NECC engineering graduates before him, he has transferred into a bachelor’s degree program in electrical engineering at UMass Lowell. In a few years, Clark, a former NECC Presidential Scholar, hopes to step into one of the expected 300,000 open Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) jobs predicted for Massachusetts by 2018.
More and more, Northern Essex is becoming the first choice for prospective engineers. Just a dozen years ago, there were only 56 students enrolled in the engineering program. Last spring that figure rose to 249 and today that number hovers around 290.
NECC Engineering Program Coordinator Paul Chanley credits the popularity of the Engineering Program, as well as all of the STEM programs, in part, to a national initiative to promote the need for STEM education.
In 2012, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology announced an urgent need to increase the STEM workforce in this country. The council predicted that the United States will have to increase the number of students who receive undergraduate STEM degrees over the next decade in order to meet the needs of employers.
Northern Essex works strategically to keep its STEM programs relevant so its graduates can be readily employable and/or transfer to four-year institutions. A robust Engineering Program is just one of the many ways Northern Essex is working to stay on trend
Last January, the college received a $347,000 STEM Starter Academy Grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education to get students interested in and excited about STEM fields and to provide the resources they need to succeed in STEM programs.
That grant has funded a number of initiatives including equipment for labs, enrichment programs for high school students, and professional development workshops for high school and college faculty. The college received an additional $300,000 for year two of the grant.
NECC continually improves its STEM offerings so students like Clark can fulfill their desire to pursue a STEM career while also fulfilling the current and projected employment needs of the region.