Weekly Policy Blog: Teacher Externship Program for STEM Disciplines (HB23-1198)
By: Colorado BioScience Association Date: 03/27/2023
CBSA supports HB23-1198, Teacher Externship Program for Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Disciplines, a bill sponsored by Representative Brianna Titone. It requires the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to establish a teacher externship program to allow K-12 teachers to participate in experiential learning opportunities with employers, outside of the school environment, to gain knowledge and expand their curriculum in the STEM disciplines. Employers may be eligible for a tax credit for costs incurred and paid by the employer for placing and retaining a teacher in an externship program of up to eight weeks.
Preparing Colorado K-12 students to be postsecondary and workforce ready is essential to strengthening and diversifying the local Colorado talent pipeline, advancing thriving communities, and accelerating economic vitality. Current initiatives to ensure student Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness (PWR) provide some support for schools to invest in educators to meaningfully increase career awareness to ensure Colorado students are prepared for their bright futures, but more support is needed. Providing educator externships that immerse educators in an-industry based experience is a research-backed practice that translates into increased support for students and their families. It is a crucial piece of the puzzle to close both educational and workforce gaps in Colorado.
Educator externships are a unique professional development opportunity where teachers are immersed in a company to learn about the skills and competencies needed to succeed in that industry and career path. The experience both 1) strengthens an educator’s teaching abilities and 2) brings relevant, real-world context into the classroom. Externships are often transformative for educators, students, and industry partners. Impacting just one teacher allows a company to reach between 20-150 students each year.
HB23-1198 establishes a STEM Educator Externship program through the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment that:
- Establishes employer incentives to engage in offering opportunities for educators; and
- Establishes educator incentives to gain industry-based professional development.
The bill creates a tax credit for income tax years 2024 through 2028 that allows participating employers to claim a credit for all expenses incurred over up to eight weeks in placing a teacher in the externship, including stipends or other compensation for the teacher, paid by the employer.
Teachers may be compensated by their local education provider or participating employer and may apply for graduate and professional development credits. The bill establishes data reporting requirements and adds the externship program as a professional development option for renewal of a teacher license.
Colorado BioScience Institute’s STEM Research Experience for Teachers (RET) Program
CBSA is particularly excited about how this bill would help the Colorado BioScience Institute with its STEM Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program. The Institute, founded by CBSA in 2015, cultivates and diversifies the state’s life sciences workforce, from classroom (K-12), to campus, to career.
The Institute’s STEM RET Program provides middle and high school teachers with practical knowledge and hands-on experiences to enhance their content understanding, industry knowledge, classroom practice, and bridge to the real-world skills students will need. STEM RET is an intensive program, held five days a week for four weeks during the summer. Throughout the program, teachers spend about 130 hours with an innovative STEM company working alongside their teams on critical projects. Additionally, teachers spend 30+ hours of training translating their industry experience into bringing scientific concepts to life in Colorado’s 6th-12th grade STEM classes. The program introduces teachers from all backgrounds to the purpose-driven, high-paying jobs available in life sciences and helps them understand the path needed to prepare students for a STEM career. If your company is interested in joining the Colorado BioScience Institute in these efforts by hosting a teacher, please contact Meg John, Institute Vice President.
HB23-1198 passed out of the House Education Committee unanimously on March 8 and then passed out of the House Finance Committee on a vote of 9-2 on March 16. The bill will next be heard in the House Appropriations Committee. The bill will also have to make its way through the Senate before it can be signed by the Governor.
To support the bill, CBSA signed onto written testimony from the Colorado STEM Ecosystem. CBSA member companies Terumo Blood and Cell Technologies and TriSalus Life Sciences, as well as ZimVie, provided live testimony.