Two years ago, ArcelorMittal decided to focus its charitable giving on a specific area so it would have a greater impact.
Executives decided to concentrate on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, because it’s crucial for preparing the workforce in a technologically advanced industry such as steel. They set a goal of devoting 40 percent of the company’s community giving to STEM by 2018, and are already at 43 percent, said Marcy Twete, Division Manager of Corporate Responsibility and Executive Director of USA Foundation.
“Every single job in the future is going to be a STEM job, whether advanced manufacturing or law or finance, you’ll have to have some background in STEM,” Twete said. “Even if these kids don’t end up working for us, they might work for GM or Ford or Whirlpool or Caterpillar or a company that uses steel and helps keep steel the material of choice.”
ArcelorMittal last year contributed $7.9 million globally to STEM education, including about $3 million in America.
The Luxembourg-based multinational steelmaker for instance sponsored Science Olympiad teams from Lake and Porter counties, and is looking to expand the program to its other operations.
“Our partnership also includes employee volunteers,” said Kelly Nissan-Bridge, communications and corporate responsibility manager. “They provide support for the coaches teachers and administrators. They make the experience for the students possible. Their dedication is humbling.”
Rich Bender, the longtime coach of the Thomas Jefferson Middle School Science Olympiad team in Valparaiso, said the steelmaker has been paying entry fees for teams that are financially struggling in the two-county region.
Thomas Jefferson teams have had an ArcelorMittal engineer as a volunteer coach for the last decade.
"It's extremely helpful someone with his knowledge is teaching the kids," Bender said. "He helps them with the planning from top to bottom, whether building things or making improvements in the design phases or in the competition."
Thomas Jefferson teams have won 24 state titles and will be competing for a national title May 19th at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
ArcelorMital also funds Project Lead the Way K-12 programs in computer science, engineering and biomedical science. The steelmaker also supports the Girl Space STEM program by the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana and partners with local community colleges on its Steelworker for the Future job training program.
“As the manufacturing industry in general gets more advanced, the technology becomes highly advanced,” Twete said. “We need engineers and mechanical technicians more and more, and it’s important people are ready to take those jobs.”
Kids often shy away from such areas because they’re bad at math or science, which is why it’s important to support programs that attempt to generate interest in math and science among students weighing future careers.
“Part of it is showing that STEM’s not boring, that it’s a hands-on activity that can be really fun,” Twete said. “We give tours of the steel mill so they have it in their heads that science is something used on the floor of the mill.”