INDEPENDENCE, Iowa (AP) _ A summer “externship” program is allowing Iowa STEM teachers to work side-by-side with industry employees so they can gain a better understanding of those fields and help prepare students for potential careers.

Participating teachers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields earn a stipend and a graduate credit through the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council program, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier ( ) reported.

This is the seventh year the council has operated the program, which wrapped up last month. Almost 40 teachers completed work, ranging from manufacturing to data analysis, at businesses across Iowa.

“We just try to match the teachers’ skills and abilities with what the company has to offer,” said Jason Lang, a program supervisor with the council’s Real World Externships for Teachers. “The teachers get a chance to use the content knowledge that they have and apply it to the business setting. What they leave with in the end is less about the content and more about the skills students need to have in the workforce.”

Cedar Falls High School industrial technology teacher Chad Anderson learned more about computer numerical control, or CNC, machining during an externship at Geater Machining & Manufacturing, Co., which makes more than 7,000 parts annually for the aerospace and defense industries.

Anderson worked in a prototype machining cell at Geater for six weeks, learning from machinists as they tweaked and adjusted computer programs to ensure the metal components they were creating met exact specifications. After his experience and in light of the demand for manufacturing workers in the Cedar Valley, Anderson said he’ll advocate for expanding the CNC program at the high school, which he said has limited equipment.

“We need to reflect the industry a little better,” he said.

Geater just completed its second year with the externship program, and the company’s human resources manager, Molly Mummelthie, said the major benefit “is to create those partnerships with the schools.”

Company officials believe teachers in the program will help correct misconceptions about manufacturing that sometimes keep students from considering the career field.

“If we can use the teachers to pass the information along . I think that would be a strong point,” said Rendall Wilharm, who oversaw Anderson’s work at Geater. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in Chad.”