National Science Board Calls Walsh University a Leader in STEM and Workforce Development, Positioning Stark County to be a Hub for Science, Technology and Innovation

In 2022, the bipartisan U.S. CHIPS and Science Act was signed into law which will invest $53 billion in America’s semiconductor industry, strengthen supply chains, and enhance domestic research and development capabilities to bolster America’s global competitiveness. This followed a 2019 report, Vision 2030, whereby the National Science Board (NSB) and National Science Foundation (NSF) sounded the alarm that the United States is falling behind in STEM fields and a workforce that had the technology-competencies that would maintain our economic dominance and national security.

At Walsh University’s annual Science and Technology Summit on November 14, the NSB recognized Walsh for the third consecutive year as being at the center of this national conversation and leading the nation in answering their call to address these issues. By cultivating strategic community and government collaborations and key partnerships with local industry, business leaders and content experts, the University has established key initiatives in workforce development and access to scientific infrastructure that have positioned Northeast Ohio for transformative economic development through innovation and scientific advancement.

“We continue a national conversation where we are thinking deeply about how to execute on an educational effort to upskill the American workforce and at the same time transform the undergraduate education in the sciences – all with an emphasis centered on partnerships with government, industry and across the entire academy,” said President Tim Collins.

Watch the Video Highlights from the Science and Technology Summit

Vision 2030, and an earlier publication entitled the Blue-Collar STEM Report, co-authored by Dr. Victor McCrary, Vice Chair for the NSB, were the inspiration for Walsh University’s Skilled Technical Workforce (STWF) Program. The STWF which has issued over 1,500 credentials, is equipping businesses with practical technological solutions to advance a technology-driven culture across Stark County and Ohio, making them more profitable and more competitive while also providing training and upskilling for the state’s workforce. Courses place an emphasis on relevant core competencies which qualify employees for full tuition reimbursement for credentials earned under Ohio’s TechCred Program.

“Thank you for your commitment to what this nation needs in terms of science and technology. You’ve set the model for the nation, and my colleagues and I are very impressed,” said Dr. McCrary. “I bring you today a very urgent but uplifting message.  It is extremely important right now, in terms of our economic and national security, that we have a diverse pool of domestic STEM talent for the return of manufacturing, not only in semiconductors, but in quantum computing, biotechnology, and digital agriculture.”

Tech is one of the fastest growing industries in the state with global companies like Intel, Facebook, Google, Amazon Web Services, IBM, and others expanding business operations to Ohio.

“Once the Intel plant is built in Ohio in the next 18 to 24 months, I can tell you as a research scientist who worked in the laboratory of a semiconductor plant where only 15 percent of those people held degrees, we’ve got to have a workforce ready to go. We cannot wait another 18 to 24 months,” Dr. McCrary said. “That is why what Walsh University is doing is so important and impressive.  Walsh is at the center of this national conversation and taking meaningful action to provide practical solutions with tangible results.”

Other distinguished guests and speakers at the Summit included Dr. James Moore, III, Assistant Director of the Directorate for Education and Human Resources for the National Science Foundation.  Dr. Moore added that while a college degree is absolutely necessary for some positions, Congress is equally interested in what they refer to as “middle job skills,” those individuals with a high school diploma who need more training.

“We must seize this moment in time. Our nation is counting on us,” said Dr. Moore. “I believe young people are ready to be inspired. We need to inspire the people who come in contact with them on a day-to-day basis. We have to believe we can be the tipping point to inspire individuals to do great work. Just last year, this beloved institution was recognized by the NSB.  You help young people tap into their calling, and that’s infectious. Now, people can finally see what you’ve always seen. You can be the tipping point. Let’s leverage it. Let’s maximize our human and financial resources so Ohio can do the work it has done for a very long time.”

Dr. Jonathan Gruber, Chairman of the Economics Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and co-author of the book Jump-Starting America, was the keynote speaker at the Summit.  Dr. Gruber drew parallels between what is happening in Canton and other Ohio cities to other American cities that have emerged over the past five decades as what he calls “superstar cities.” He pointed out that over the past 15 years, 75 percent of the key tech sectors have been concentrated in six American coastal cities, including Boston, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles.

Dr. Gruber discussed what led to this concentration of talent and resources and the problems this presents to our nation.  By studying what “jumpstarted” these cities to become global leaders in innovation and scientific advancement, we have learned what is needed to create future ecosystems across the nation that would foster innovation and maintain America’s global economic prowess.  A renewed focus on collaborations between business, academia and government with a dramatic increase in public funding in basic scientific research and development will “jumpstart” other cities to “super-stardom”.

Dr. Gruber noted an index in his book that pulled objective data to rank cities across the nation that are poised to become the next “superstar city.”  “Our index of potential next-generation tech hubs identifies 102 places across the country that have large, highly educated populations, strong universities, relatively low housing costs and easy commutes. Turns out the Canton-Akron-Massillon corridor fits that profile and ranks 14th on that list,” Dr. Gruber said.  

He closed the program by extending congratulations to Walsh University for having been leaders in the community, pointing out the University’s initiatives that have been developed over the past five years have positioned the region for transformation economic development opportunity. 

During the Summit, Yoshiaki Maeda, President of Shimadzu Scientific Instruments (SSI) and top executives from the Shimadzu leadership team met with the Walsh University leadership, thought leaders and economic development professionals from across the region to discuss ideas for economic development opportunities through the sciences and announce that Walsh University has been awarded a second SPARQ (Shimadzu Partnership for Academic Research and Quality of Life) grant. This highly selective grant will provide an infusion of millions of dollars of some of the most sensitive and high-end scientific equipment on the market for chemical and elemental analysis and materials testing.  The suite of equipment will provide Northeast Ohio businesses with a unique resource for collaborative opportunity. To date, The Center for Scientific Excellence has saved businesses millions of dollars of costs, generated hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue to support the science department and has created numerous internship and job opportunities for undergraduate students.

“Our speakers delivered such powerful and exciting messages,” said Dr. Dan Passerini, Executive Director of Cross Enterprise Operations at Walsh University, who spearheaded the Skilled Technical Workforce and SPARQ programs and chaired the conference committee.  “We are proud that these national thought-leaders recognized that the work being done at Walsh University is aligned with national priorities and will provide transformational opportunities for our students, our community and all of Northeast Ohio.”   

Here are some photos from the event.