By GREGORY ZELLER // Long Island’s LaunchPad ecosystem, one of several fronts in the war against the Island’s “brain drain,” is facing a recruiting crisis.
Many businesses within the LaunchPad system – a co-working environment for startups and entrepreneurs that now includes facilities in Great Neck, Hicksville, Huntington, Mineola and Stony Brook – are finding their recruiting processes hampered by “a lack of available talent and a shortage of innovate thinkers,” according to Hofstra University.
That talent deficiency results from a shortage of affordable rentals and good-paying jobs, the usual culprits behind brain drain, Long Island’s economically disastrous exodus of next-generation professionals. But according to Debbi Honoroff, senior director of continuing education at Hofstra, it’s more fundamental than that: A lack of arts instruction across the Island’s education system.
“There’s been so much focus on STEM that arts kind of fell out of the picture,” Honoroff said about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. “But people are now realizing that arts are integral to education and to the future workforce, too.”
To that end, Honoroff – already knee-deep in preparations for a Hofstra summer course that will give high-schoolers a leg up on 21st century workplace skills – has teamed with LaunchPad and the statewide nonprofit Workforce Development Institute on “Full STEAM Ahead,” an evening of interactive demonstrations and panel discussions scheduled to kick off at 6 pm June 4 at LaunchPad Huntington. (For the uninitiated, STEAM adds “arts” to the STEM acronym.)
Like that weeklong summer course, “Full STEAM Ahead” aims to prepare young people for the needs and demands of 21st century professionalism – though the one-off has an ancillary goal, Honoroff noted, of “raising awareness of the importance of arts education.”
To do that, the June 4 workshop will offer volumes of information on the innovative educational resources and programs “paving the way for students and learners across the nation to achieve success,” according to Honoroff.
“Educators must find creative ways to integrate ‘the three R’s’ with ‘the four C’s’ – collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity,” she said.
Scheduled panelists include Beth Leventhal, executive director of the Hofstra University Museum; Laurie Carey, founder and CEO of We Connect the Dots, a Cold Spring Harbor-based nonprofit focused on promoting STEAM education; and June Feldman, senior director of Hauppauge IT consultancy Intelligent Product Solutions. The free event – which is expected to attract students, parents, teachers, community leaders and regional business stakeholders – is slated to be moderated by Theresa Statz-Smith, executive director of the Long Island Arts Alliance.
Carey, a 30-year tech-field veteran (including a decade as a technology strategist at Microsoft) who also runs the for-profit tech consultancy Laurie Carey Consulting, has made a career of helping state and corporate CIOs leverage technology in the business world. In 2012, while studying for her MBA at Harvard, she determined that helping students do the same was critical, leading her to launch We Connect the Dots.
“How do you teach math in a fun way?” Carey said. “How do you leverage technology to make kids want to learn about math and science? How do you help students who are starving to learn these new skills sets, which are going to help them get jobs and advance their careers?”
Where Carey is focused on “the importance of technology not only for the sake of technology, but for the sake of empowering a learning experience,” fellow panelist Leventhal champions the importance of an arts education to tomorrow’s “creative problem-solvers.”
Attracting students, policymakers and stakeholders to this cause is critical to plugging the brain drain and to Long Island’s innovation economy in general, according to Leventhal – and developing those out-of-the-box thinkers absolutely requires training in the arts, which helps “to develop areas of the brain required for innovation and creative thinking.”
“Adding activities like music, performance and fine arts to STEM teaches important skill sets that foster collaboration and teamwork,” Leventhal said. “These are essential requirements of our future workplaces.
“The more creative problem-solvers we can develop today,” she added, “the stronger our future workforce will be.”