One Small Step for SAMP, One Large Step Towards Bridging Tucson’s STEM Skills Gap

New SAMP Graduates Helping to Bridge the Skills Gap in Tucson

The STEM skills gap is a complex problem involving poverty, educational attainment, regional employment needs, and much more. Unfortunately, the gap affects more than just businesses; whole communities, neighborhoods, families, and individuals are all victims of the skills gap. However, Tucson is making significant efforts to bridge the STEM skills gap for the betterment of the Southern Arizona region.

For the past six years, the Southern Arizona Manufacturing Partners (SAMP) program and its network have worked to bridge the skills gap in the Tucson region through improving post-secondary attainment, and encouraging interests in STEM careers.

A group of twenty manufacturers with a strong presence in the Tucson area, SAMP works in conjunction with Tucson high schools, Pima Community College (PCC), and [email protected] Pima County One-Stop to provide a pathway to greater STEM education for high school students.

Recently, SAMP graduated its fifth class of students, honoring them at a commencement ceremony in the Amethyst Room at PCC’s Downtown campus. More than fifty people were in attendance, including past and present SAMP students, their families, SAMP member representatives, and many others. The following is a transcription of the commencement speech by Howard Stewart, president and CEO of AGM Container Controls, Inc.

The following transcript is edited for clarity.


Howard Stewart, President and CEO of AGM Container Controls, on stage delivering a commencement speech to graduating SAMP interns.
Howard N. Stewart, president and CEO of AGM Container Controls, Inc., speaks to graduating SAMP students at their commencement.

Howard Stewart:

I’m Howard Stewart; I’m CEO of a company here in town called AGM Container Controls. It is really my privilege, especially since we have three graduates in this evening’s class; I’m really honored to have the opportunity to address all of you this evening. 

You guys are all familiar with the word “graduation.” What’s happening here is called a “commencement.” Some of you may have familiarity with that word. I know when I was a high school senior; I didn’t know what it meant. If someone had asked me, I’d have replied: it means the end, it means the termination, it means something like that. But it doesn’t at all. “Commencement,” the verb is, “to commence, to begin.” What’s happening tonight is really a celebration of the beginning of your futures.

One of the reasons I’m so excited to be involved with SAMP is that I really strongly believe in the need for economic development in our community. The work that you guys are doing, the kinds of jobs that you guys are working in the machine shops and the manufacturing companies; this is the engine of our economy. These are the jobs that really need to be filled, and they’re hard to fill, these positions, because so few people have the education to fill them.

I don’t know if you understand this or not but, you’re all really smart. And you’re all really capable if you’ve gotten this far. You have bright futures ahead of you; particularly if you do one thing: continue your education.

Further commence. Don’t stop here with getting the certificates that you will get here tonight. If you really want to make a difference for your families, for your future families; if you want to make a difference you’ve got to keep going with your education, and that means you need to get your associate degrees, and then you need to keep going.

Unfortunately, most people stop. And that shouldn’t be because, with this particular degree, with this particular certificate, it proves that you’re really capable, particularly in a couple of areas where there are bachelor degrees, like engineering and business.

So I want you guys to think about that, that this could be your futures. You could potentially, by going on and getting your bachelor degree, you could easily double your earnings that you make in machining. You’re so close! You’re so close. And I’m sure that every other manufacturer in the room, including Don and I, would agree: this is what we would really like to see you guys do because you’re the life blood of our companies. You guys are the future.

In twenty or thirty years from now, I don’t think I’m going to be here but you guys will be here, and you guys will be leading your companies – if you pursue your education.

That’s all I have to say tonight. Again, I’m really proud of the work all of you have done to get here and I wish you the greatest success as you look towards your futures. Thank you very much.

[Applause]

End Speech


On May 15, 2019, SAMP recognized eight students with certificates in machine-tool technology. Three of these students were interns at AGM Precision Machining who afterward transitioned into full-time positions with the company. Those SAMP graduates are:

  • Anthony Covarrubias, Machine Shop Helper
  • Sergio Lizarraga, Machine Shop Operator
  • Gabriel Molina, Machine Shop Operator

To these three SAMP graduates, thank you for all of your hard work. Congratulations, and welcome aboard.

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AGM Precision Machining is a service of AGM Container Controls, Inc., a leader in the manufacture and supply of moisture and environmental control products to the aerospace and defense industries since 1970. Located in Tucson, Arizona, AGM Container Controls, Inc. is an American owned and operated company, and proud supplier to the U.S. military.