In April of 2016, POWER team leaders, Ben Zwickl and Kelly Norris Martin received an additional grant from the NSF with Matt Hora from the University of Wisconsin, for research focused on 21st century skills, which include collaboration, communication skills, problem solving, and self-regulated learning. The research, now referred to as the EMPOWER STEM project will look at employers’ perception of these skills among new hires and the degree to which new employees display these skills. It will also look at the extent students are learning and practicing 21st century skills.
This is a collaborative effort between RIT and the University of Wisconsin-Madison and will focus on STEM-related industries and educators in 2 and 4 year institutions in four major regions, Seattle, Raleigh, Denver and Houston. The goal is to develop further understanding of how industry defines and develops 21st century skills and how students and employees gain proficiency in those skills using focus groups, surveys, and studying how 21st century skills are taught.
Kirk Winans, one of the original POWER team members, has moved on to pursue his PhD in communication and rhetoric at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The program focuses on researching and describing the effects of new technology mediated communication. At RIT this past August, Kirk successfully completed his M.S. in Communication & Media Technology and defended his thesis, which looked framing by journalists and the public perception of the term “skills gap.” The paper contributed to the mission of the POWER team to further understand issues surrounding the skills gap among those in transition from school to a technical job.