The Research & Development STEM Learning Exchange
In 2012, Illinois Pathways selected the Illinois Science and Technology Institute (ISTI) to convene and lead the R&D Learning Exchange (RDLE), a public private partnership committed to expanding STEM learning and career opportunities for Illinois’ students and developing STEM talent pipelines for Illinois industry. The RDLE has grown into a coalition of 50+ organizations representing the collective interests and impact of businesses, universities, nonprofits, federal laboratories, government agencies, and secondary schools. RDLE collaboration aims to:
- Support Illinois schools and post-secondary institutions in recruiting, retaining, and graduating STEM students
- Support Illinois industry in hiring and retaining qualified STEM professionals
- Improve the coordination of public and private investment in STEM learning and workforce development
- Scale the reach of individual investments through the collective network of RDLE partner organizations
- Facilitate collaboration between industry and schools through: mentorship, applied learning, professional development, workplace learning, and curricular resources for students and teachers across the state
The RDLE collaboratively developed three key initiatives that were piloted in 14 Illinois partner high schools in 2013-14:
- Mentor Matching Engine: A web-based platform that enables virtual mentoring between STEM professionals and STEM students to deepen research and broaden learning.
- R&D Resource Repository: Free resources aligned to Next Generation Science and Common Core Math Standards, including: teacher professional development, curricula, hands-on learning tools, and internships.
- Industry Challenges: A NGSS-aligned, integrated curriculum that applies STEM concepts to real-world challenges through problem-based learning and highly-supported partnership with Illinois companies and research institutions.
Illinois will have 320,000 job openings in STEM fields by 2018, but not enough students are graduating in STEM fields to meet demand. Illinois also has $12.5 billion in research and development (R&D) investment through businesses, universities and federal laboratories. This presents an opportunity to take action by working across sectors to address this talent gap.