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The drive to spark interest in STEM, close the skills gap
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The drive to spark interest in STEM, close the skills gap

The drive to spark interest in STEM, close the skills gap
Photo Credit: Russell Mills

The drive to spark interest in STEM, close the skills gap

Recent statistics indicate historically low unemployment rates in the US, the best in half a century. 

So employers have to compete to attract workers, and for manufacturing companies, that can be especially challenging. 

The solution, many believe, is to get young people interested in science, technology, and engineering - STEM - and then show them a path to a well-paying career which can be pursued without necessarily racking up huge amounts of student debt. 

AAON, based in Tulsa, builds heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems for customers all over the country. 

[IN-DEPTH: KRMG’s Russell Mills speaks with AAON’s Mark Fly and Stephanie Cameron]

Stephanie Cameron is community relations director for AAON, and part of her mission is to reach out to young people to promote STEM.

“Work force is the number one challenge for manufacturers,” she told KRMG recently. “The average age of a high-skilled worker is 56, and so we don’t have enough people interested and familiar with skilled trades to fill those positions.”

She's promoting STEM every chance she gets, and tells KRMG AAON is offering some real opportunities, including paid internships and support for continuing education.

HVAC may sound boring to some, but AAON's building a one-of-a-kind research and testing facility called the Norman Asbjornson Innovation Center.

It's run by executive director Mark Fly, who tells KRMG an associate's degree in HVAC, or even just an affinity for working on cars, was once enough to get into the trade. 

"Today, I have to have’em with computer skills,” he told KRMG. For example, “this whole innovation center has hundreds of thousands of data points, all networked together on computers.” 

And as Cameron points out, they need workers with a wide range of technical, physical, and even literary skills to operate.

As of this writing, their website indicates they have a number of openings:

  • Professional: Managers, Engineers, Warranty, Parts Distribution, Accounting/Credit, Sales and Marketing, and Office Support Staff
  • Skilled Trades: Maintenance Technicians (Mechanical/Electrical), Brazers, Welders, HVAC Technicians, Wirers, Forklift Drivers, and Painters
  • Entry Level Positions: Machine Operators, Assemblers, Warehouse, and Shipping

Read More
  • With higher tariffs originally scheduled to kick in Tuesday on imported goods from China now on hold, U.S. and Chinese negotiators still need to flesh out the details of a trade deal announced Friday at the White House, as President Donald Trump expressed optimism that the plan would be 'phase one' of a broader trade agreement. 'We have a great deal. We're papering it now,' the President told reporters on Friday. 'Over the next three or four or five weeks, hopefully it'll get finished.' 'I mean, it's an incredible deal for farmers. I think they'll have to go out and buy more land and buy bigger tractors,' Mr. Trump added, as officials said China had agreed to buy between $40 billion and $50 billion in U.S. agricultural products. But other than those ball park figures on farm purchases, there were few details offered by either side on what was agreed, as the U.S. Trade Representative's office put out no statement or specifics on the agreement. In Washington, the announcement drew immediate praise from Republican lawmakers from farm states, who have watched nervously from the sidelines as the U.S. raised tariffs to 25 percent on many Chinese goods, and China retaliated by reducing purchases of American agricultural products. 'This is excellent news, and I look forward to reviewing the specifics,' said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND). 'I’m encouraged by the progress announced on the China trade deal,' said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). 'I hope it can be concluded expeditiously.' 'Glad to see this great progress,' tweeted Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS). 'President Trump’s announcement to postpone the tariff hike is welcome news for American businesses, farmers, and consumers,' said Myron Brilliant, a top official with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But others pointed out that the progress made this past week in trade talks did not erase the tariffs and trade barriers already in place against American products, as China has reduced its purchases of U.S. products during this trade fight with President Trump. The agreement 'is a break in the clouds, but tariffs continue to cast a pall over the futures of farmers, ranchers and rural America,' said Brian Kuehl with the group Farmers for Free Trade. It wasn't immediately clear when a broader deal would be finished, or signed. 'We’re at point where tariffs have continually escalated since basically spring of 2018 and I think both sides want to see if they can find a way out of this,' said David Salmonsen, the top Washington lobbyist for the American Farm Bureau Federation. 'So, we’re encouraged that this is going on.
  • Two people were killed and one person is missing after the Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans, which is under construction, collapsed Saturday morning. >> Read more trending news  At least 18 people were taken to an area hospital, NOLA.com reported. Here are the latest updates: Update 10:40 a.m. EDT Oct. 13: The search resumed Sunday morning for a missing person after a partial collapse of the under-construction Hard Rock Hotel, WSDU reported. Seventeen of the 18 people taken to New Orleans-area hospitals have been discharged, NOLA.com reported. One person was expected to undergo surgery, officials said. New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent Tim McConnell told reporters there were 112 workers at the Hard Rock Hotel construction site when the collapse occurred. McConnell said many of those workers also were injured and showed up later in area hospitals to receive medical treatment, NOLA.com reported. Update 2:18 a.m. EDT Oct. 13: A second person was killed in the hotel collapse, New Orleans officials confirmed late Saturday. One person is still missing, authorities said.  Earlier Saturday night, Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a statement addressing the incident. 'Today's collapse was a tragedy, and our hearts break for the loss of life. Our focus is on continuing to secure the site and to doing everything we can to support the families impacted as rescue efforts continue,' the statement read. 'All residents should continue to stay away from the area, and to heed the street closures and traffic warnings. We appreciate the public's response and support, and we are praying for the victims and their families.' Update 5:40 p.m. EDT Oct.12: Although three people were initially reported missing, one of those victims was at a hospital receiving treatment, officials said.  The two people still missing are believed to be in separate parts of the building, WWL-TV reported. Update 2:46p.m. EDT Oct.12: Jonathan Fourcade, of New Orleans Emergency Medical Services, told NOLA.com that an urban search-and-rescue team will sweep the Hard Rock Hotel in an attempt to find three missing workers. Evacuations were ordered in buildings near the hotel, the website reported. The Hard Rock Hotel was planned as an 18-story building with 350 rooms, WWL-TV reported. It was scheduled to open next spring, the television station reported. Update 12:57 p.m. EDT Oct. 12: New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent Tim McConnell said the upper six to eight floors of the structure collapsed, The Times-Picayune reported. He added the building remained 'very unstable.' Several buildings in the area have been evacuated, the newspaper reported. Update 12:02 p.m. EDT Oct. 12: It was not clear what caused the collapse, WWL-TV reported. The New Orleans Fire Department, New Orleans Emergency Medical Services, and the New Orleans Police Department responded to the collapsed building, located at Canal and North Rampart streets, the television station reported. Around 9 a.m., upper floors of the building to fall on top of each other before he structure collapsed to the ground, WWL reported. 'It sounded like a -- I don't know how to describe it -- like a building coming down,' Matt Worges, who saw the collapse from the nearby Tidewater Building, told the Times-Picayune. 'It was a deep, rumbling sound. Like an airplane maybe. It drew my head immediately.' This is a developing story.
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes or heart disease, getting enough sleep at night is imperative, according to a new report.  >> Read more trending news  Researchers from the Pennsylvania State College of Medicine recently conducted a study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, to explore the association between lack of sleep and some chronic illnesses. To do so, they examined more than 1,600 adults, aged 20 to 74, who had high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease or stroke. After following them for about 20 years, they said combining these illnesses with sleeping less than six hours nightly was a “deadly combo.” They found those who had high blood pressure or diabetes and typically slept for less than six hours a night were twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke. They also said subjects with heart disease or stroke, who typically slept for less than six hours nightly, were three times as likely to die from cancer. On the other hand, sleeping more than six hours nightly eliminated the early-death risk.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults should get at least seven hours of sleep a night. “Our study suggests that achieving normal sleep may be protective for some people with these health conditions and risks,” lead study author Julio Fernandez-Mendoza said in a statement.  The team said short sleep duration can be used to predict the long-term health outcomes of those with chronic illnesses. In fact, they believe policy makers should help ensure sleep consultations and assessments “become a more integral part of our healthcare systems,” they said. Fernandez-Mendoza concluded, “Better identification of people with specific sleep issues would potentially lead to improved prevention, more complete treatment approaches, better long-term outcomes and less healthcare usage.”
  • After months of work where he was never nominated for the job by President Trump, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan handed in his resignation on Friday, continuing an unprecedented amount of turnover in the department that deals with illegal immigration. 'Kevin McAleenan has done an outstanding job as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security' the President said on Twitter. 'We have worked well together with Border Crossings being way down.' 'Kevin’s leadership was instrumental in reducing the flow of migrant children and families at our southwest border,' said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL). But as McAleenan thanked his colleagues at DHS on Friday, it had become apparent in recent weeks that the former head of the border patrol was not going to be around for long. An article filled with quotes from McAleenan on October 1 in the Washington Post made clear his time at DHS might be short, as he was described as isolated inside the Trump Administration. 'What I don’t have control over is the tone, the message, the public face and approach of the department in an increasingly polarized time,' McAleenan said in the Post article. Democrats said the change after six months was evidence of a Department under stress - filled with 'acting' officials. 'This is the 4th DHS Secretary to leave the Trump Admin,' tweeted Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), as Democrats have bitterly fought the President's policies on illegal immigration. 'I am not here to defend Kevin Mcalleenan,' tweeted Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). 'But I will tell you that it is likely to get worse without him.' “The departure of the Acting Homeland Security Secretary is the latest sign of this Administration’s failed leadership, which has worsened the humanitarian situation at the border, injected pain and tragedy into countless lives and done nothing to improve the situation at the border,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Washington Insider

  • With higher tariffs originally scheduled to kick in Tuesday on imported goods from China now on hold, U.S. and Chinese negotiators still need to flesh out the details of a trade deal announced Friday at the White House, as President Donald Trump expressed optimism that the plan would be 'phase one' of a broader trade agreement. 'We have a great deal. We're papering it now,' the President told reporters on Friday. 'Over the next three or four or five weeks, hopefully it'll get finished.' 'I mean, it's an incredible deal for farmers. I think they'll have to go out and buy more land and buy bigger tractors,' Mr. Trump added, as officials said China had agreed to buy between $40 billion and $50 billion in U.S. agricultural products. But other than those ball park figures on farm purchases, there were few details offered by either side on what was agreed, as the U.S. Trade Representative's office put out no statement or specifics on the agreement. In Washington, the announcement drew immediate praise from Republican lawmakers from farm states, who have watched nervously from the sidelines as the U.S. raised tariffs to 25 percent on many Chinese goods, and China retaliated by reducing purchases of American agricultural products. 'This is excellent news, and I look forward to reviewing the specifics,' said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND). 'I’m encouraged by the progress announced on the China trade deal,' said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). 'I hope it can be concluded expeditiously.' 'Glad to see this great progress,' tweeted Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS). 'President Trump’s announcement to postpone the tariff hike is welcome news for American businesses, farmers, and consumers,' said Myron Brilliant, a top official with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But others pointed out that the progress made this past week in trade talks did not erase the tariffs and trade barriers already in place against American products, as China has reduced its purchases of U.S. products during this trade fight with President Trump. The agreement 'is a break in the clouds, but tariffs continue to cast a pall over the futures of farmers, ranchers and rural America,' said Brian Kuehl with the group Farmers for Free Trade. It wasn't immediately clear when a broader deal would be finished, or signed. 'We’re at point where tariffs have continually escalated since basically spring of 2018 and I think both sides want to see if they can find a way out of this,' said David Salmonsen, the top Washington lobbyist for the American Farm Bureau Federation. 'So, we’re encouraged that this is going on.
  • After months of work where he was never nominated for the job by President Trump, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan handed in his resignation on Friday, continuing an unprecedented amount of turnover in the department that deals with illegal immigration. 'Kevin McAleenan has done an outstanding job as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security' the President said on Twitter. 'We have worked well together with Border Crossings being way down.' 'Kevin’s leadership was instrumental in reducing the flow of migrant children and families at our southwest border,' said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL). But as McAleenan thanked his colleagues at DHS on Friday, it had become apparent in recent weeks that the former head of the border patrol was not going to be around for long. An article filled with quotes from McAleenan on October 1 in the Washington Post made clear his time at DHS might be short, as he was described as isolated inside the Trump Administration. 'What I don’t have control over is the tone, the message, the public face and approach of the department in an increasingly polarized time,' McAleenan said in the Post article. Democrats said the change after six months was evidence of a Department under stress - filled with 'acting' officials. 'This is the 4th DHS Secretary to leave the Trump Admin,' tweeted Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), as Democrats have bitterly fought the President's policies on illegal immigration. 'I am not here to defend Kevin Mcalleenan,' tweeted Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). 'But I will tell you that it is likely to get worse without him.' “The departure of the Acting Homeland Security Secretary is the latest sign of this Administration’s failed leadership, which has worsened the humanitarian situation at the border, injected pain and tragedy into countless lives and done nothing to improve the situation at the border,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
  • In a legal setback for the White House, a federal appeals court panel on Friday upheld a lower court ruling that President Donald Trump's accounting firm must provide the Congress with Mr. Trump's financial records, ruling that the President cannot block a subpoena from a House committee for such financial information. 'Contrary to the President’s arguments, the Committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply,' the panel's 2-1 majority wrote, referring to Mr. Trump's accounting firm. 'Having considered the weighty interests at stake in this case, we conclude that the subpoena issued by the Committee to Mazars is valid and enforceable, the ruling states. 'We affirm the district court’s judgment in favor of the Oversight Committee and against the Trump Plaintiffs.' In Congress, Democrats hailed the appeals court decision. “Today’s ruling is a fundamental and resounding victory for Congressional oversight, our Constitutional system of checks and balances, and the rule of law,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who has repeatedly complained about how the Trump Administration has defied subpoenas. The House Oversight Committee issued the subpoena back in April; GOP lawmakers denounced the move at the time as 'an astonishing abuse' of Congressional authority. But twice now, the courts have found otherwise. In a scathing dissent, Judge Naomi Rao argued the only legitimate way for Congress to get access to the President's financial records would be through impeachment. 'The House may not use its legislative power to circumvent the protects and accountability that accompany the impeachment power,' Rao wrote. 'Allowing the Committee to issue this subpoena for legislative purposes would turn Congress into a roving inquisition over a co-equal branch of government,' added Rao, who was put on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by Mr. Trump. The two other judges involved in the decision were put on the appeals court by President Clinton (Tatel) and President Obama (Millett). The President still has the option of appealing this decision - either to the full D.C. Court of Appeals, or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Even as President Donald Trump again declared his opposition to an impeachment investigation in the U.S. House, Democrats sent out more subpoenas on Thursday, as the probe gathered more steam with the arrest of two associates of the President's personal lawyer, who were charged with illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. election campaign contributions. Democrats wasted little time in sending subpoenas for Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were arrested at Dulles Airport on Wednesday night, heading for Europe on one-way plane tickets. 'Your clients are private citizens who are not employees of the Executive Branch. They may not evade requests from Congress for documents and information necessary to conduct our inquiry,' Democrats told the lawyer for Parnas and Fruman. 'I don't know those gentlemen,' President Trump told reporters at the White House. 'Maybe they were clients of Rudy (Giuliani).' 'It just gets greasier and greasier,' said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN). Democrats also sent a subpoena to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, about his contacts with Ukraine government officials, and possible involvement in gas sales involving Ukraine. It wasn't clear that Perry had done anything to press leaders in Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter - but it was clear the ex-Governor of Texas was now getting bogged down in this Ukraine investigation. Investigators also want to know more about pressure reportedly put on the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, who was unhappy with Giuliani's activities. 'We are moving methodically but expeditiously to uncover how the President used the levers of his office to press Ukraine to investigate a political opponent,' Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Democrats have made clear to a number of witnesses that if they do not cooperate, it 'shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House's impeachment inquiry.'
  • Two men with ties to both President Donald Trump's personal lawyer and Ukraine were charged Thursday with campaign finance violations involving a $325,000 contribution to a political action committee which is supporting the re-election campaign of the President. The men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were already under scrutiny by Democrats in Congress as part of the impeachment investigation aimed at President Trump. Parnas and Fruman reportedly had helped Mr. Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, seek out damaging information in Ukraine related to the son of former Vice President Joe Biden. Their attorney had already notified Democrats in Congress that neither Parnas nor Fruman would turn over documents requested by investigators, and would not appear for depositions this week on Capitol Hill, as part of the impeachment inquiry. Their arrest was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. The four count indictment charged that Parnas and Fruman had taken a variety of steps to shield the source of their campaign contributions, funneling 'foreign money to candidates' and political action committees. Prosecutors say the two men created a fake company, Global Energy Producers, and falsely reported that some campaign contributions came from GEP, described by the feds as a 'purported liquefied natural gas import-export business.' Read the unsealed indictment from the Southern District of New York. The lawyer for Parnas and Fruman is John Dowd, who helped President Trump deal with legal matters during the Russia investigation. The Associated Press reported that Dowd on Thursday hung up the phone when an AP reporter called for comment about the charges. In a news conference in New York, federal prosecutors said on Thursday that Parnas and Fruman were arrested on Wednesday at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C. Both men had one way tickets to an overseas destination.