October 15, 2017

INTAG CEO Bob Welsh shared his personal and professional perspective related to the 2017 TEDx Harrisburg theme, “evolution.” Welsh invited the audience to take a journey with him about his experience with the youth of Harrisburg and their eventual collective desire to solve community problems, like urban food deserts and vocational worker shortages.

He said the the first step of that journey was self awareness and “learning how to hear myself louder.” Over several years, Welsh, his colleagues, and community partners experimented with ways to reach and attract Harrisburg-area teenagers to engage in workforce development programs. “Aquaponics changed the game,” Welsh explained. “There were a million things a kid could learn.”

Welsh and his colleagues used public-private partnerships to build what is now the Steelton-Highspire School District Aquaponics Learning Center, a flagship for INTAG‘s controlled environment agriculture, research, STEM/STEAM education, and workforce development. “Students can learn concepting, drawing, engineering, electricity, business, and so much more,” Welsh said. More than 100 students and a dozen teachers have been engaged with the Learning Center since 2015, through high school classes, summer internships and jobs, credit-bearing professional development, higher education partnerships, and more. “A kid can see her future in here,” he said.

Welsh told the TEDx audience that bringing the nonprofit model into the world of private enterprise has brought many benefits and allowed multiple sectors to work together to achieve tangible results for communities in-need and young people looking for a way to tap life-changing opportunities.