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EDWARDSVILLE, Ill., March 20, 2018 – With yellow toy construction hats perched on their heads, groups of children gathered around volunteers, eagerly listening to stories about bulldozers, backhoes and construction sites. The volunteers, from Granite City’s local full-service engineering and construction firm, icon Mechanical, took turns reading to eager audiences of nearly 500 kindergarteners. Working in the construction industry, the volunteers easily engaged with the children, talking about construction opportunities and giving out toy construction hats. The children enthusiastically welcomed the guest readers, asking questions about what they heard. “It was a joy to be a part of this event and watching kids get excited about reading and the construction industry,” said Jamie Shrum, Purchasing Agent at icon Mechanical. “I applaud Prather Elementary and the Granite City School District for offering programs like this.” Reaching out to schools in the area is one way the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois and its speakers bureau, which icon Mechanical is part of, are raising awareness about jobs in manufacturing, the trades and other STEM fields.

Thousands of jobs are opening in manufacturing, craft, cyber and other STEM fields now and in the near future, without a talent pipeline to supply the growing need. The up-and-coming workforce needs to be aware of these career opportunities. The Leadership Council has been raising awareness through the “Manufacture/Craft/Cyber/STEM Your Future” campaign. With the mission to proactively grow the manufacturing, tech and trades based workforce in Southwestern Illinois, the campaign has been sharing opportunities with students of all ages, families and other influencers about available careers and the benefits of jobs in STEM fields.

From its inception 23 years ago, icon Mechanical has been a supporter of the local Granite City community. icon Mechanical was eager to step in where there was a need, partnering with the Leadership Council to share stories about construction with the kindergarteners. “When the Leadership Council approached us with the opportunity to be a part of the reading program, we knew it was a perfect fit for our corporate mission of giving back to this wonderful community,” said Steve Faust, Business Development and Diversity Coordinator at icon Mechanical and Co-Chair of the Leadership Council’s Manufacturing Steering Committee. The construction storybooks were donated to each classroom and to the school library. Reading to the children was a valuable opportunity to talk about jobs in construction. “It’s never too early to introduce children to career opportunities,” said Shrum. Informing children at an early age about a variety of career opportunities helps them to understand the importance of their studies and the career options they face.

Since 2015, the “Manufacture/Craft/Cyber/STEM Your Future” campaign has reached over 12,000 students, parents, teachers and other key influencers in the Southwestern Illinois community. Many regional partners in STEM fields have come onboard, recognizing that only collaborative and proactive effort will unite the Southwestern Illinois region to prepare the workforce of tomorrow.

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