The lagging economy is threatening to scuttle the expansion of a popular schools-to-business partnership in the Tampa Bay area.
Since 1997, the state's independent Technological Research and Development Authority has put more than 1,500 Florida teachers to work on paid summer internships in the science and technology sectors.
Now the TRDA and the Helios Education Foundation are hoping to boost the Teacher Quest program with a three-year, $300,000 pilot program focusing on middle school teachers in the Tampa Bay region.
But this year, budget-conscious firms are holding back.
"We are experiencing difficulty identifying businesses," said Diane Matthews, TRDA education director. "I've never seen a year like this."
So far just one business, Custom Manufacturing and Engineering, has committed to this summer's program, Matthews said. Other firms are waiting on the sidelines for now.
Officials are hoping companies can find a few dollars in charitable accounts to help launch the Tampa Bay effort and inspire students at an impressionable age to see the relevance of the so-called STEM fields of science, technology and math.
They want to place teachers in fully paid, six-week summer jobs with companies in biotechnology, agriscience, finance, information technology, energy and high tech manufacturing.
The payoff? Teachers return to the class with an armful of inspiration, not to mention lesson plans linking their curriculum to the real world.
"This is a call to action for businesses looking for a turn-key solution to link to education and impact the future work force," said TRDA executive director Chester Straub in a statement. "It's a way to encourage students to choose a STEM-related career."
For more information on participating in the Teacher Quest program, contact Diane Matthews at [email protected]
Tom Marshall can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431.