Civic leadership generates a head of STEAM

The Cambridge Community Foundation stepped into the civic leadership space this year by working with a set of partners to create a forum to increase opportunity for Cambridge students and job seekers of all ages.

What drove the work was a shared sense just how important the innovation economy is to those who live and work in the city. After all:

  • Almost 40 percent of the state’s workforce is employed in the innovation sector, far more than any other state.
  • Wages in the innovation sector are typically much higher than average wages, one reason for the robust economy in Massachusetts.
  • Massachusetts itself was ranked the top innovation hub in the country by Bloomberg News earlier this year.

In turn the innovation economy is driven by trained talent. In particular, by workers who can combine the technical smarts often gathered under the rubric STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math with the creative thinking derived from the Arts. Put that together and the goal is STEAM.

That was the focus of a forum held in Kendall Square by the Foundation with partners including The Agenda for Children, an out-of-school-time initiative serving schools and families in Cambridge; Just-A-Start Corporation, which works to build housing security and economic stability; the Kendall Square Association, which represents a neighborhood that serves as a global hub of innovation; the Metro North Regional Employment Board, which strengthens the regional workforce by giving residents critical skills; and SkillWorks, a regional partnership that creates pathways out of poverty by building access to family-sustaining jobs.

A long list of leading corporations in the area joined in support, including Biogen, Cambridge Innovation Center, Google, JP Morgan Chase Inc., Microsoft and Novartis among many others.

Then forum drew a packed house and is the start of an ongoing effort to keep the need to create pathways into the innovation economy for Cambridge students and residents seeking greater opportunity. Further events and an inclusive conversation will build on the enthusiasm already sparked.