Bill Scott of Scott Turbon Mixer and Eric Schmidt of Exquadrum each spent a recent morning sharing the ins and outs of their Adelanto businesses as part of an educational field trip — but no busloads of students arrived at their sites.

Instead, a film crew documented the tours so the footage could be shared with any interested teachers and students.

Teaching students about local employers through virtual field trips is one of many ideas generated through a new regional initiative to cultivate a stronger work force in the High Desert.

STEAM 2020, driven by Victor Elementary School District Superintendent Dale Marsden, is an effort to rally education, business and community leaders to engage, educate and inspire youths and young adults. The initiative is promoted under the High Desert chapter of Alliance for Education, a countywide program geared toward connecting academics to the world of work.

On Thursday, roughly 200 people gathered at Victor Valley College to kick off STEAM 2020 with a “Solutions Summit.”

“We need to focus locally where we have the ability, we have the experts, we have the will,” Marsden said. “It’s exciting to see the leaders rallying together because they care so much about the community they serve.”

STEAM is a slight variation on the educational term STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math. STEAM adds applied arts into the mix. The goal by 2020 is to see every child and adult earning high school degrees concurrently with a community college degree or technical school certificate in a STEAM-related field.

Themostrecent data shows that in San Bernardino County, one in five high school students are dropping out, and less than one in five adults over 25 have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Aside from making students more globally competitive, STEAM 2020 seeks to ensure they’re employable, as jobs paying above minimum wage increasingly require advanced training.

“The bottom line is if we just pretend that every kid came out of our current system proficient or advanced in reading, writing, math or science and a high school diploma, that still in and of itself is not enough to sustain a job that would provide for their family,” Marsden said.

It’s no secret the High Desert was hit hard by the housing bust and ensuing recession, with foreclosures crowding the market and jobless rates topping 15 percent.

However, County Superintendent of Schools Gary Thomas said it’s not so much that there are no local jobs, but that there aren’t enough qualified workers to do the jobs available.

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