St. Thomas is taking an unorthodox approach to designing what will be its newest south campus facility: asking employers what skills they need from graduates entering the workforce.

The answers from those companies will play a big role in shaping how the university will educate its students when it breaks ground on the new Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) complex. 

In late August, St. Thomas leaders joined with some of the Twin Cities’ highest-profile employers to brainstorm ways to make sure graduates are leaving campus with the skills and knowledge needed to enter the workforce and fill in-demand positions. This unique, virtual co-design session was created as a way to generate ideas for the STEAM complexwhich the university says will increase collaboration between students from multiple disciplines across the university 

Last month, St. Thomas announced it surpassed the halfway point in fundraising for the new complex; the university anticipates breaking ground in spring 2022 with a target opening date of fall 2024.  

“Our job is to listen carefully and ensure that our education is relevant for the workplaces of tomorrow,” said President Julie Sullivan. “We are intentionally designing our STEAM complex with our partners’ input to benefit our students and to help our graduates be successful in life and career.”

Target, 3M and Ecolab were just a few of the companies that shared their vision for the future workforce at the co-design session and discussed ways St. Thomas could provide students the necessary tools to be innovative, collaborative leaders in their communities. Content from the session will be included in the design process that is underway with architect and design-build partners as the university advances to a final programming and building design.   

“Spontaneous interaction and collaboration between people are critical to the emergence of creative, practical ideas that work in the real world,” said Ashish Khandpur, executive vice president of the Transportation and Electronics Group at 3M and a member of the St. Thomas Board of Trustees. 

Other companies who participated in the session included Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, Andersen Corp., APi Group, Cargill, C.H. Robinson, Land O’Lakes, Inc., Piper Sandler, Polaris Inc., PricewaterhouseCoopers, Securian Financial, SPS Global Limited, Thomson Reuters, UnitedHealth Group and U.S. Bank. By preparing students for jobs in areas needed the most, St. Thomas and the participating corporations are making sure those who don the St. Thomas cap and gown are ready to hit the ground running after graduation. 

“Our employer partners are telling us that their future employees must be flexible, creative and able to innovate in the workplace,” Sullivan said. “They want workers who have relevant knowledge, value diverse perspectives and are adaptable. St. Thomas works hard to be a partner of choice with our employers.

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