The Women Tech Council launched the first expansion event of their SheTech program to provide access to hands-on tech experiences and mentoring with industry experts to high school girls across the state and in rural areas to engage and inspire them to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The SheTech expansion was launched in partnership the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED) and the Department of Workforce Services through a grant from Talent Ready Utah. By inspiring and engaging girls across the state and especially in rural areas to pursue STEM, SheTech helps accomplish the state's goal of creating the skilled workforce needed to continue Utah's strong economic growth, especially in Silicon Slopes.

"Because women are a critical part of the technology economy, we want girls in all regions to realize the opportunities that STEM education and careers provide them," said Cydni Tetro, president of the Women Tech Council. "By expanding this program and ensuring that all girls in Utah have access to industry and mentoring regardless of where they live, we are helping to develop our economy and ensure the state's success."

Friday's expansion event, called SheTech Explorer Day, was done in partnership with Weber State University. More than 400 high school girls from Box Elder to Rich to North Salt Lake participated to earn industry certifications, problem solve with mentors from more than 30 companies and explore STEM careers through activities like robotics, aerospace dynamics, 3D printing and virtual reality. Through these tech experiences, opportunities to problem solve and present, and one-on-one mentoring with professionals from companies including Pluralsight, Wadman Engineering, Dealertrack, Rocky Mountain Power and MarketStar, students gained skills, confidence and inspiration to pursue STEM courses and careers.

Additional future events will continue to expand the programs reach, especially in rural areas. Research from previous events shows 93 percent of participating high school girls are interested in pursuing STEM careers after taking part in SheTech Explorer Day.

"The SheTech expansion will greatly benefit students in rural Utah," said Val Hale, executive director of GOED. "The Talent Ready Utah partnership will allow us to train and inspire students by connecting them to high-demand, high-paying jobs. We are committed to extending Utah's economic success beyond the Wasatch Front."

Beyond Explorer Day, SheTech provides participating high school girls continual engagement with STEM industry by helping them gain internships, learn about college scholarships and find courses that match their interests in their school and district. This continual integration takes SheTech beyond traditional programs that teach students skills by giving girls ongoing resources, support and mentoring to continue their path into STEM and succeed.

"As a university committed to ensuring students are ready for the work force, we recognize the value of bringing industry and education together to create a stronger impact for students," said Dana Dellinger, Director of the Center for Technology Outreach at Weber State University. "With SheTech, we have the ability to help provide access to training and skills to hundreds of girls to help them pursue STEM degrees and successfully launch into the work place."

Another SheTech Explorer Day will be held May 8 at Southern Utah University to broaden access of the program into additional rural communities. Additional events will also be held at sites in Colorado and Idaho in the coming months. By the end of the year, the SheTech program will have reached and impacted more than 10,000 high school girls to pursue STEM careers.

Students, parents or schools interested in getting involved with SheTech or participating in other Explorer Days should visit www.shetechexplorer.com.