4 months ago

ULA’s Tory Bruno on training 21st century workforce — ‘Higher education is the most powerful force we have’

The nation needs to prioritize technical curriculum in its workforce training to meet the demands of 21st century jobs, and higher education will be at the forefront of the effort.

That was the assessment of United Launch Alliance president and CEO Tory Bruno during a virtual panel discussion last week as part of the AscendxSummit on Space Policy and Education.

The owner of a 1.6 million square foot rocket manufacturing facility in Decatur, the largest such facility in the Western Hemisphere, Bruno’s company is heavily dependent on a highly-developed workforce in Alabama.

Joined on the panel by former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Bruno outlined that expanding the number of students enrolled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum is critical to the United States remaining a leader in the aerospace industry.

“When we talk about space and our industry, we’re really talking about STEM, and the dominant element of STEM is engineering, engineering and applied science,” he explained. “If we’re not careful, we’ll produce people who are very theoretical, but have less ability to handle the applied side of that.”

Gov. Kay Ivey recently created the Alabama STEM Council to study and inform state leaders on how to advance Alabama’s efforts in the STEM strand.

Ivey explained that the Yellowhammer State “has continued to grow into an advanced manufacturing, aerospace engineering and cybertechnology center of excellence and as a result, the demand for qualified labor in these sectors has skyrocketed.”

The federal government invests more than $3 billion annually in STEM education.

RELATED: University of Alabama STEM students included in nation’s top 20 in 20s

Wilson, who currently serves as president at the University of Texas-El Paso, added her support for the notion that more students need to go on to higher education, and more of those need to be involved in technical learning.

“Currently in America, about 62% of boys who recently graduated from high school, and 69% of girls, go on to some post-high school educational experience, college, technical training, community college,” stated Wilson.”That’s nowhere near enough because 90% of the new jobs that are being created require some kind of post-high school credential. Most of them are technically-oriented. Even jobs that are not technically-oriented, finance, marketing, are having more and more technical components.”

She sees a need to bridge the gap between industry and higher education, particularly in the area of “continuous spiraling education.”

“A bachelor’s degree or a master’s or a Ph.D., and then you quit learning, is not enough for this generation,” Wilson remarked.

Bruno believes that greater collaboration between university faculty and industry can help bridge that gap. He advocated for programs that keep faculty involved in practical applications within industry, as well as bringing more experienced members of his industry into teaching settings.

“We’ve got a very good model going in the applied side of this where we have industry coming in and being involved with universities, with real world projects, and sending our employees back for more education, and even taking students out into internships,” Bruno elaborated. “What I wish I could see more of, and it’s on us to make this happen, is the same thing for faculty. I feel there’s a trend of fewer and fewer faculty who have an industry background before going to academia, and fewer and fewer faculty who, once in academia, continue to have involvement in industry.”

Asked for ideas on how to keep women and minorities involved in STEM, Wilson cited work done by the National Science Foundation.

She said that studies have shown more engaged learning is key, including focus on the “why” not just the “what.” Women disproportionally want to know why the problem matters, according to Wilson, which is why she touts more problem and community-based learning.

“The environment in engineering school needs to be supportive and not about weeding out,” she detailed. “That’s particularly important when you have a small percentage of the class that feels different anyway.”

“Diversity has such great power in problem solution,” observed Bruno, a former chairman of the Diversity Council at Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

One of the ways in which greater diversity in technical curriculums can be achieved, according to Bruno, is increased focus by universities on bringing in as many students as possible and teaching them what he termed, “good, solid STEM skills.”

“We should be measuring universities on productivity not on their reject rate, in the first place,” he asserted. “There are so many universities that are rewarded with prestige by being very exclusive. They literally measure themselves by how many students they reject, how many students they wash out. What the country needs is more graduates, not fewer.”

Universities in Alabama have already excelled in the area of STEM training.

Earlier this year, the University of Alabama College of Engineering had two of its students recognized among the nation’s top 20 STEM students. Jane Gillette and Sean Devey were recognized as part of Aviation Week’s 20 Twenties for 2020, which was sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Gillette has participated in internships at ULA and NASA.

Wilson sees no shortage of potential students but rather places the responsibility on universities and private industry to pull them into the STEM strand.

“We need to reach what I call the ‘missing millions,’ the young people in America who have not been inspired or supported to go into STEM disciplines because the 21st century will demand it,” she stated.

Despite the challenges of the current year, and technical innovation which demands an increasingly developed workforce, Bruno expressed forward-looking optimism.

“I’m not the least bit concerned that our country will not overcome the challenges that are in front of us,” he concluded. “We absolutely will. Will have resourceful, we have resilient people, we have the best education system in the world. Higher education is the most powerful force we have in our society to change someone’s economic fortunes. It makes all the difference in the world. It is a life-changer.”

RELATED: Boeing donates $50K to Decatur City Schools for STEM education

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 hour ago

Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator taking applications for 2021 class

Startups from around the world are encouraged to apply for the Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator 2021 class.

In its second year, the innovative program, located in Birmingham, seeks early-stage startups focused on emerging energy technologies. Areas of interest include smart cities, electric grid resiliency and sustainability, industrial electrification, connectivity and electric transportation.

The class will run for 13 weeks and include 10 companies. Through their participation in Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator, startups will receive seed investment, business coaching and mentorship through Techstars’ worldwide network of business leaders.


At the end of the 90 days, the program will culminate in Demo Day, a public pitch event on Dec. 9.

“We had a fantastic first year, made successful through the hard work and creativity of our inaugural class, even during a pandemic,” said Nate Schmidt, Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator’s managing director. “If you have an energy tech startup, you simply don’t want to miss out on the amazing opportunities and relationships this accelerator will provide your business.”

Techstars Alabama is supported by Alabama Power, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, the Alabama Department of CommerceAltecPowerSouth and the University of Alabama. They play a key role in the accelerator process, with the common goal of growing the number of startup companies based in Alabama and making the area a hub of innovation activity.

The application deadline is May 12. For more information, visit the Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator program page at Techstars.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 hours ago

VIDEO: Gov. Ivey extends mask mandate, lottery could be an option as gambling bill languishes, Merrill backs off ‘no excuse’ absentee balloting and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and political consultant Mecca Musick take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Did Governor Kay Ivey make the right decision when she extended the mask mandate?

— Is the Alabama Legislature going to look to move forward with the lottery if they can’t get a more comprehensive gambling bill?

— Why did Secretary of State John Merrill support and then retract his support for “no excuse” absentee voting?


Jackson and Musick are joined by Matt Murphy of Talk 99.5 in Birmingham to discuss the issues facing the state of Alabama this week.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” at Alabama Democratic Party Chairman and State Representative Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) for not following through on his plan to make the party more relevant in Alabama.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

6 hours ago

Mo Brooks: Stopping H.R. 1, amnesty keys to winning in 2022 midterms — ‘Then we will be able to neuter Joe Biden’

FLORENCE — With the third month of the 117th Congress now underway, House Democrats have pushed forward in their efforts to pass H.R. 1, which would impose so-called reforms to the country’s voting system.

Also among the priorities for Democrats, who control the White House, House and Senate, are immigration measures that could include amnesty for illegal aliens.

During an appearance at the Shoals Republican Club on Saturday, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) panned those efforts and said he hoped to stymie the progress of House Democrats on those two fronts.


Brooks told those in attendance that if Republicans could prove successful in those efforts, it would set the GOP up for wins in the 2022 midterm elections and hamstring President Joe Biden’s push to promote a left-of-center agenda.

“We’ve got to stop H.R. 1, and we’ve got to stop the amnesty and citizenship that Joe Biden has promised,” he said. “If we do those two things, then we’re going to take back the House in 2022. I hope we will take back the Senate in 2022. And then we will be able to neuter Joe Biden over the next two years if we control the House and Senate and set the stage as well for us taking back the White House in 2024 with whoever our nominee may be.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

7 hours ago

2021 Birmingham Heart Walk goes virtual

COVID-19 has forced many nonprofits to shift gears in their fundraising efforts and the American Heart Association (AHA) is no exception. The AHA’s 2021 Birmingham Heart Walk has been reimagined as a digital experience this year to maintain necessary safety protocols due to the ongoing pandemic.

Through the event design, AHA is striving to get more people moving in Birmingham while continuing to raise life-saving funds and keep participants safe in the process. The Birmingham Heart Walk is Saturday, June 12, from 9-11 a.m. and participants can walk from anywhere.

Leading up to the event, participants are encouraged to track their activity through the “Move More Challenge” using the free Heart Walk activity tracker app that can be downloaded from Apple or Google Play. Once registered, users have 30 days to log minutes, and any activity counts. Top movers and fundraisers will be recognized on Heart Walk day.


“The American Heart Association holds a special place in my heart,” said Southern Company Vice President of Technology David Coxwho will chair the walk for the second time. “They have done so much for my family and for my daughter, Emily, who was born with multiple congenital heart defects. I’m pleased to partner with this outstanding organization in their efforts help our community connect and stay active as we adapt to this virtual world.”

More than 600,000 Americans die each year from heart disease, and the risks have only been compacted by the pandemic. Among COVID-19 hospitalizations, 40% are heart or stroke patients, so this year, donations from the Heart Walk will help fast-track COVID-19 research and train front-line workers in addition to the many other research projects and resources funded by the AHA.

Fundraising and activities for the Heart Walk are beginning to ramp up as the warmer months approach.

“Now is the time to sign up, lace up and start fundraising for the 2021 Birmingham Heart Walk,” said Hannah Carroll, Heart Challenge director of the Birmingham AHA. “Signing up now ensures you won’t miss any of the fun this year, like Rally Days and our new activity tracker.”

On Feb. 18, Cox hosted a virtual kickoff for business leaders in the Birmingham area who will be fielding teams at this year’s Heart Walk. He encouraged counterparts to begin their fundraising efforts by saying, “We’re here for a reason – to fight for a world of longer, healthier lives.”

To view Emily’s story, click here. To learn more about the 2021 Birmingham Heart Walk or to create a team, click here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

11 hours ago

Schoolyard Roots growing stronger, smarter kids in Alabama

When kids participate in the life of a garden, they see the complete cycle of growing food, cooking and preparing it to eat. School gardens are exciting places for kids to learn basic academic subjects, too.

The Tuscaloosa community came together more than 10 years ago to develop a garden-based learning program called the Druid City Garden project, now called Schoolyard Roots.

Schoolyard Roots employs a full-time teaching staff that provides garden lessons for students, as well as professional development training for teachers. The school gardens provide an outdoor experience rare to many students. They are more likely to make healthy choices and try new foods. Students gain a sense of responsibility, to collaborate and work together as a team.


“When we see a child’s health and education improve, we know that we’re not only investing in that child’s life today – we’re helping them build a better future,” said Nicole Gelb Dugat, interim executive director. “Schoolyard Roots builds community through food. By increasing access to fresh, locally grown produce, we empower our community to make healthy and sustainable food choices.”

In March 2020, the impact of COVID-19 significantly affected the teaching community. Almost immediately, the Schoolyard Roots team began distributing produce from its gardens directly to local families. By the end of last year, the program had distributed more than 750 pounds of fresh garden vegetables to the community.

“We stewarded our gardens as fresh-air sanctuaries, where children and adults could relax, refocus and reconnect,” said Dugat. “Through it all, we shared vegetables and flowers. We cultivated moments of peace and learned together. We could not have done any of it without our incredible community of supporters.”

They found hope and inspiration in the small miracle of seeds planted by the students. Gardens bring joy, peace and courage in times of struggle. And gardens remind us to have hope for new growth and what is to come.

Schoolyard Roots partners with Tuscaloosa-area elementary schools to bring learning to life through teaching gardens. The nonprofit works in 11 elementary schools across Tuscaloosa County.

Its mission is to build healthy communities through food with the Gardens 2 Schools program.

Gardens support and encourage healthful eating as a key component of children’s physical wellbeing, which can aid their academic and social success, too. The garden is woven through many aspects of a school’s curriculum and adapted for different grade levels.

“The Gardens 2 Schools program cultivates curiosity,” Dugat said. “The program teaches the students how to work together (and) learn self-reliability and compassion.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)