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STEM talent pipeline building diversity

407 ETR and York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering continue to push for greater diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.

They came together on National STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Day on November 8 to highlight the need to dismantle systemic barriers for underrepresented groups in STEM.

In July, 407 ETR donated $400,000 to Lassonde’s k2i (kindergarten to industry) program for the 407 ETR Work Integrated Learning Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Fund and the 407 ETR Path2STEM Fund. That funding is specifically geared to help the k2i academy expand its offerings to students underrepresented in STEM, including women, Black and Indigenous youth and those from low-income communities.

Just 2.7 per cent of postsecondary certificates, diplomas and degrees in STEM are earned by Black Canadians 25 years and older. Women make up less than five per cent of the trades field and make up just 18 per cent of licensed engineers in Canada and just 0.6 per cent of engineering students enrolled in accredited programs identify as Indigenous Peoples, 407 ETR Concession Company Limited reports.

About half of 407 ETR’s workforce touches a STEM-related position and 25 per cent of its IT-related positions are filled by a woman. “We’re working to ensure that our workforce reflects the diversity of the communities we serve,” says 407 ETR President & CEO Javier Tamargo.

“To achieve better representation across the board, we need to ensure the talent pipeline is filled with a diverse pool of candidates. That’s why we’re proud to be part of this program which is addressing some of the systemic barriers that make it difficult for students to pursue academic paths in STEM.”

York launched the k2i academy in 2020. Described by the university as an “innovation sandbox,” it works alongside school boards to offer science and engineering programming in classrooms. It provides innovative work-integrated learning experiences and partners with community organizations to provide unique, hands-on STEM opportunities. The academy has employed more than 400+ high school students and more than 130undergraduate STEM mentors.

Recent Lassonde Computer Science graduate Gbemisola Anuoluwapo Akerele has been with the k2i academy for almost three years, first as a student mentor, then a mentor lead and now as a program assistant. He describes his experience a “rewarding and memorable opportunity” because he can see students he mentored grow and develop an interest in STEM. Some have gone on to major in STEM degrees.

Photo of students and a program mentor during a k2i academy demonstration courtesy of CNW Group/407 ETR Concession Company Limited.

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