MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Mylan Pharmaceuticals CEO Heather Bresch said it’s important to remember that Mylan is committed to West Virginia, something the company believes is best showcased through its outreach to West Virginia’s communities.
The company, fresh off of a surprise round of layoffs involving around 400 union employees and 100 salaried employees, announced Monday a new partnership with WVU, WVU Extension Services, and 4-H that will pump $5 million over the next 10 years into greater STEM awareness for West Virginia’s youth.
“We saw it as an opportunity to really make it real and relevant for students,” she said. “This is hands-on, seeing it. The programming that we want to develop and use the 4-H infrastructure to reach every county in West Virginia is to really bring it to life for our kids and let them see that STEM is really in everything that we do every day in any career path they might choose.”
Bresch only commented briefly on the layoffs during her 18-minute speech to a packed room at the WVU Media Innovation Center, citing “tough decisions” in recent weeks. She claims the layoffs and the charitable contribution are two sides of the same coin — both intended to make Mylan a stronger company and a better member of the West Virginia community as a result.
“Both announcements show our commitment to this state and the success that we want to enjoy,” she said. “And we want the community and the state at large to have success as well.”
“Mylan has been here since 1961. Not only are we committed to this state for its growth and success, but we want to partner and help really bring and show what a public-private partnership can do.”
The money for STEM-CARE will use the existing infrastructure provided by WVU Extension Services and 4-H in an effort to reach beyond Morgantown and into all 55 counties in the state.
“We want to give our students, our youth, access to STEM education for solving all problems in their lives,” WVU Provost Joyce McConnell said. “We also want to have them be curious, active, resilient, and engaged.”
Jennifer Robertson-Honecker, the Science, Technology, Education, and Math (STEM) specialist for WVU Extension 4-H Youth Program, said one of the key goals is to get students interested in STEM subjects early in their lives.
“Research shows that if kids haven’t had meaningful hands-on STEM opportunities by fifth grade, we’ve really lost them,” she said. “The sad thing is — I’m a former public school teacher — you don’t hit concentrated STEM coursework until sixth grade.”
“K through 5 is really where some of the opportunities are lost, for sure. That’s definitely where we want to start, but we’re going to be focused on all grades.”
Leah Summers, Mylan’s Head of Community Outreach and Engagement, called STEM-CARE an investment in Mylan, West Virginians, and the state as a whole due to Mylan’s roots in the state and sizable workforce of native West Virginians.
“STEM is an important foundation for anyone that works at Mylan, particularly in research and development and manufacturing you might suspect,” she said. “STEM is also important for people who have jobs at Mylan that may not be thought of as traditional STEM jobs.”
Robertson-Honecker said the goal is multi-faceted — “demystify” STEM for children who haven’t been introduced to it, but also connect children through STEM programs.
“It really develops an all-around child through the program and introduces them to other kids in their communities who are like minded,” she said.
STEM-CARE is a WV Forward initiative.