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Governor tears up speech, talks to students about skills gap instead

Gov. Pat McCrory had prepared remarks when he met Tuesday with Forsyth Technical Community College students and members of the State Board of Education, but instead he tore up his speech. 

Students in nanotechnology and biotechnology at Forsyth Tech led McCrory and other observers through some of the projects they’ve worked on before the Governor had a chance to ask them some questions.

The presentation in the “wet lab” at the college was part of the State Board of Education’s work session Tuesday.

McCrory asked the students what policymakers and educators can do better when it comes to STEM education.

Nanotechnology student Jack Landgraf explains his project to Governor Pat McCrory (Photo Credit: Alex Granados)
Nanotechnology student Jack Landgraf explains his project to Governor Pat McCrory (Photo Credit: Alex Granados)

Jack Landgraf, a 22-year-old student in nanotechnology at Forsyth, said students must learn that STEM isn’t mundane.

“You need to see that science doesn’t have to be boring,” he told the Governor. “Science is very interesting.”

In response, the Governor told the crowd of observers: “We learn more from them than we do from each other.”

Sarah Dettloff, a 24-year-old biotechnology student, agreed with Landgraf, saying that educators need to pique students’ curiosity. 

“Because that’s the funnest part for me. Is just having that freedom to think, be curious and research, and create something amazing and productive from it,” she said. 

Landgraf also added that students need exposure to STEM earlier in life, saying that he wished he had known about nanotechnology when he was younger. 

“If I had the opportunity to strive for that in high school…it could have changed my whole world.” 

Instead of giving his pre-scripted speech, McCrory talked to the students about the skills gap in North Carolina. He said that he hears over and over again from employers that they can’t find workers with the skills they need. 

State Board of Education Chair Bill Cobey commended McCrory and told the gathered spectators that the Governor is a leader on education in the state. 

After the visit in the “wet lab,” members of the Department of Public Instruction, the State Board of Education, and others attended a panel discussion on the importance of STEM preparation for careers and education.

Dr. Stan Hill, the director of the Center of Excellence for Research, Teaching, and Learning (CERTL) at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, talked about how the haves and have nots used to have to do with access to money and now it has to do with access to STEM. He said, “My issue is who is in the pipeline, and how can we diversify the people in the pipeline.”

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.