Dean C. Allen, CEO of Seattle-based mechanical contractor McKinstry, doesn't want to hear that job candidates don't need to be good at math or that science isn't for everyone.
To help students and faculty focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and careers, and to boost the quality of job candidates for his firm and other state employers, he was instrumental in launching the advocacy group WashingtonSTEM. In a state starting to rival Silicon Valley as a technology incubator, its mission has caught on.
Board members include executives from state-based firms such as Boeing, Intel, Microsoft and McKinstry competitor Lease Crutcher Lewis, with Wall Street brokers and technology entrepreneurs as partners.
They've pledged $100 million over the next decade to rejuvenate STEM instruction at all levels of education, in and out of the classroom.
"It seemed like the world was not taking on the problem in a broad enough way. … Every kid needs to get out of high school reasonably competent in math and science," says Allen, WashingtonSTEM board president. "I felt McKinstry could have a real strong voice in that."
Allen "seeks out opportunities to bring bold innovation and business savvy to STEM education through enduring partnerships with education, business and philanthropic communities," says Mike Delaney, a Boeing engineering vice president. "Boeing's competitiveness relies on our highly skilled workforce and their well-developed problem-solving and collaborative skills."
Mary Alice Heuschel, former public schools superintendent in Renton, Wash., and now chief of staff for newly inaugurated Gov. Jay Inslee (D), cites Allen's "visionary leadership" as driving WashingtonSTEM's fast-growing influence, in the state and nationwide, since its spring 2011 launch.
Allen says that while involvement of major firms is invaluable, showing that small contractors and even unions want change makes legislators pay attention.
"This is not about a couple of big companies wanting a tax break," he says. "This is something all businesses want for every student in our state."