At a Glance
The PA Dream Team is a team of young professionals who work in the manufacturing field, specifically in STEM-related careers, and have been trained by the Manufacturers Resource Center (MRC) and the Berks County Intermediate Unit (BCIU) to present their career journeys to students in Berks County. The PA Dream Team pilot program aims to encourage more young people to consider a career in manufacturing (STEM) so that projected workforce demands may be met in Berks County.
Education and business leaders in Berks County recognized the pressing need to develop a pipeline of skilled workers in the manufacturing field as research indicates there will be a deficit of such workers over the next 10 years. Yet, many students in Berks County, especially those in urban districts, are not exposed to such career paths. To address the need for more skilled workers and the lack of student awareness about manufacturing, MRC and BCIU collaborated to create the PA Dream Team. Members of this team of local, young professionals visit students to educate them about manufacturing. These visits provide students the the opportunity to learn more about the career path and workplace journey from those in the field.
MRC created the first PA Dream Team in the Lehigh Valley area. After seeing the success of the Dream Team in that area and with growing requests for support from Berks County educators, MRC and BCIU partnered to replicate the Dream Team model in Berks County.
(According to its website, “MRC is a nonprofit organization partially funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s NIST-MEP program, as well as the State of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development. MRC is dedicated to creating jobs and economic opportunity in eastern Pennsylvania’s Lehigh, Northampton, Schuylkill, Carbon and Berks counties.” See https://www.mrcpa.org/about/)
With funding from a Business Education Partnership Grant, BCIU and MRC began recruiting and onboarding young professionals for the PA Dream Team in February 2021, and trained members from March 30, 2021 through the summer of 2021. MRC focused specifically on recruitment, recruiting members from Berks County Businesses.
BCIU assumed responsibility for onboarding and training new members. To help identify potential team members, Reading Muhlenberg Career & Technology Center (RMCTC) provided names of students experiencing success in their career areas. (Mrs. Lisa Hughes, the Work Based Learning Coordinator at RMCTC, used Remind App to reach out to past co-op interns who are successful professionals.) BCIU selected seven young professionals, each from a different employer in the Berks County area, to join the PA Dream Team.
In September 2021, Berks County schools could start requesting classroom presentations from the PA Dream Team. As of November 2021, the PA Dream Team received 18 school requests, which will result in 43 classroom visits, five of which will be at Career and Technology Centers. During these classroom presentations, Dream Team members share their education and career journeys with students, raising awareness about available career opportunities in manufacturing. Team members also participate in the Open House at RMCTC and middle school events to share their career insights and experiences with students.
Mrs. Hughes emphasizes the importance of the PA Dream Team model in connecting businesses, schools and students to manufacturing careers. The young professionals on the Dream Team are powerful role models for students because they represent success and can relate well to students, having once been in their position. Mrs. Hughes finds this model to be most meaningful in those schools serving urban areas whose students are not typically exposed to such career fields.
Businesses that are interested in having their young professionals participate in the Dream Team can find more information and a questionnaire at Padreamteam.org .
The PA Dream Team model is well established in Lehigh and is growing in Berks County. MRC and BCIU will focus on recruiting additional members and increasing the number of classroom visits for the Berks program.
Berks County Intermediate Unit
Jill Darlington, Career Readiness & STEM Specialist
Reading Muhlenberg Career & Technology Center
Lisa Hughes, Work Based Learning Coordinator