Axalta Coating Systems…Full-STEM Ahead – Mike Carr

By Mike Carr, Axalta President-North America

Axalta Coating Systems is a leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings.  Our products are designed to improve durability, increase productivity and add beauty.  We strive to predict industry changes and bring solutions to our customers in order to meet their evolving needs.  In order to be successful and offer optimal products and solutions, we must be nimble and employ talented individuals who are experts in research and development, chemistry, technology, engineering and more. These technical skillsets have made a critical contribution to our 150 years of innovation.

We understand the impact that exposure to these fields can have on our future workforce.  It is our belief that the investment we make today can and will greatly impact us tomorrow.  It’s been said that “preparation is one of the critical keys to success.”  Our encouragement and support of community outreach initiatives that promote exposure to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) exemplifies that ideal.

Axalta believes in giving back to the communities in which we work and live.  We are steadfast in our corporate social responsibility initiatives that includes all things STEM.  This quite naturally leads to a major emphasis on preparing our youth to be able to take on the challenges and demands that the future will bring.  With this in mind, we believe it is important to partner with organizations who help students acquire practical experience in these areas.

Our investment in the next generation will drive our continued advancement.  We are proud to support Delaware’s First State Robotics and the Miracles of Engineering (MOE) team.  This program sets a foundation by engaging students in the robotics design process and provides them with opportunities to compete.  The MOE team visited our offices and demonstrated their robotic talents.  Our employees were thrilled to see these young people put their skills to the test.  The confidence and teamwork that they displayed will serve them well for years to come.

As a sponsor, we were pleased to award Georgia Mackay, a Newark High School senior, Axalta’s First State Robotics Scholarship earlier this year. Georgia was selected for her scholastic achievement, dedication and excellent contributions to her robotics team. She received the scholarship at the 2016 Diamond State FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Championship in Dover.  Georgia plans to attend the University of Delaware this fall to study engineering.

We also support the Young Men and Women In Charge (YMWIC) organization that is focused on providing opportunities for students who are economically disadvantaged or under-represented within STEM fields.  Our goal is to help junior high and high school students prepare for collegiate programs and careers by supporting the Girls STEM and Leadership Camp, Elementary School Robotics and YMWIC’s scholarship fund.

Our Coatings Technology Center in Wilmington, Delaware recently hosted Serviam Girls Academy Middle School students.  Students participated in hands-on experiments, learned from Axalta scientists and got a true sense of what it is like to work in a high-tech research environment.  The young ladies spent time with researchers who regularly use STEM to help develop and advance Axalta’s products.  The experience was part of Serviam’s exploration project during the school’s summer program.  Although more women are entering STEM fields than ever before, Axalta wants to continue to do its part to expose and enlighten future generations.

We are excited about all of our partnerships near our facilities, around the country, and abroad that include building a 21st Century Classroom called the “Spark Room” that fosters technical development.  Students are encouraged to make every decision like installing a 3D printer, green screen and state of the art learning tools.  The Spark Room’s inspirational environment is designed to spark new ideas…spark innovation…and spark creativity.  Work is also in progress to create a STEM lab to serve high school students near our Fort Madison, Iowa facility and more.

The importance of STEM cannot be overly stressed.  We will always need brilliant minds who are passionate and focused in these areas.  The business community can help ensure that the pipeline continues by advocating and encouraging employee-student mentorship programs.  We should be motivated to help stimulate and encourage our youth to explore the various possibilities.  For our part, Axalta will continue to provide a platform for STEM expression.  It is important to our business and the economy at-large.  If we all commit to keep STEM top of mind…our future will continue to be bright.

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