PBSC strengthens diversity in STEM with $800,000 FPL grant
Palm Beach State College was awarded $800,000 from Florida Power & Light Company to bolster diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). The grant will be given in $200,000 annual installments over the next four years as part of the FPL STEM Diversity Recruitment and Retention Fund, to further support PBSC’s ongoing efforts to provide educational equity while ultimately increasing workforce diversity in the local community.
“Making STEM education more accessible provides a clear pathway to success for students from a wide variety of backgrounds,” said PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D. “Currently, STEM fields do not accurately portray the diversity across the nation. As the pandemic continues to challenge us, we will stay responsive to the needs of our community and are thankful to have FPL’s support to make a significant difference.”
According to the National Science Foundation, the STEM workforce is 89% white and 72% male. Lack of support and access to vital resources hinders many students from entering these fields or successfully navigating a STEM career pathway. With the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting STEM jobs will grow 8% by 2029, it is crucial to promote greater inclusion of underrepresented students to uncover new perspectives and support innovation.
“Breaking down barriers to opportunity for underserved communities by investing in STEM programs that empower our next generation of leaders remains one of our top priorities. We are proud to energize PBSC’s dynamic STEM initiatives and inspire students with this grant,” said Pamela Rauch, vice president of external affairs and economic development for FPL. “The FPL STEM Diversity Recruitment and Retention Fund will help provide our next generation of thinkers and innovators with a strong foundation for high-paying, in demand jobs.”
The STEM Diversity Recruitment and Retention Fund will build upon PBSC’s commitment to provide guidance that targets, supports, and impacts individuals and groups with deficits in graduation rates. More specifically, the grant is geared toward students in the Electric Power Technology and Engineering Technology programs and will establish a long-term scholarship for Black students. In addition to financial support, students will receive various wraparound services including access to student advisors to help navigate classroom settings and obstacles. Providing resources and decreasing potential burdens will help increase STEM program entry while developing students’ sense of belonging. To further ensure success, the grant will also fund a study on Black students in STEM through PBSC’s Dr. Barbara Carey-Shuler Cross-Cultural Equity Institute to uncover the most effective strategies and identify barriers to achievement.
Students will also benefit from real-world connections as FPL and its parent company NextEra Energy will serve as a resource for volunteerism and mentorship including engagement in STEM-related programming, job readiness exposure and potential board service opportunities.
The grant is part of FPL’s long-standing commitment to supporting PBSC students with continued opportunities to advance their careers. The company has provided several grants and sponsorships that support workforce development and fund initiatives that break down the barriers to opportunity.
With the 2021-2022 school year fully underway, PBSC continues to look for creative and flexible ways to serve its student population. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the college has never wavered or closed. It is now offering four different ways to take classes: face-to-face, live online, online and hybrid. PBSC’s top priority is the health and safety of all students, faculty and staff on its five campuses and it will continue following the latest protocols and guidelines.