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This year, the Washington STEM Summit brought together more than 300 leaders in government, education, community and business — including Rev. Jesse Jackson and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Washington STEM is a nonprofit that focuses on opportunities to bring STEM education to students in the state, especially those who are historically underrepresented.

“There’s an opportunity deficit,” Jackson told GeekWire. “When we close the opportunity gap, big things will come out of it. All of us will be proud of of it and what American stands for on its best days.”

On stage at the summit, Inslee spoke about “career connected learning,” which includes apprenticeships, internships and experiences that connect students with career opportunities. He spoke about a template in Switzerland, in which 70 percent of students have internships when they are 16 to 18 years old.

“In Switzerland, people understand that their investment in a student is going to pay off even if that student doesn’t come back to work for them,” Inslee said. “We need to develop that same degree of recognition of return on investment in the business community in the state of Washington.”

During a discussion on the future of work, panelists gave their recommendations to the educators, employers and other professionals in the room.

“Try to put yourself in a situation where you’re an ‘only’ and really have the experience of doing that,” said Amelia Ransom, senior director of engagement and diversity at Avalara. Ransom added that being an “only” — the only person of a particular underrepresented group — is the experience that many people live everyday.

Damien Pattenaude, superintendent of the Renton School District, encouraged attendees to think about ways to engage communities that they are not from.

“Go in with an open mind of not trying to fix, but trying to learn,” Pattenaude said. “I think that all of us can benefit from getting out of our bubble from time to time.”

Click on the video above to watch highlights from the 2018 Washington STEM Summit.

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