College, K-12 esports groups partner to fuel student success

NACE and NASEF are combining their resources to help further build the pipeline to STEM pathways for interested gamers from high schools to higher education.

Esports leaders – many of whom have a stake in student success at both the university and high school level – often talk about the need to enhance the pipeline that gives students more opportunities to carve out potential career paths, either in the games or in growing video game industry.

Two of the biggest organizations on the national scholastic and collegiate esports scenes are working to make that a reality.

The North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF), which represents K-12 schools, and the National Association of Collegiate Esports announced Tuesday they have entered into a partnership that will provide better access to connections at postsecondary institutions as well as the $16 million available from NACE’s members.

“The connection between high school players and college recruiters is vital. This partnership is an important step in connecting the two,” said Michael Brooks, executive director of NACE. “Esports encompasses far more than the players themselves as colleges look for shoutcasters, team managers, audio and video engineers, marketers and more. The partnership between NACE and NASEF will also help students identify educational opportunities to prepare them for their careers of choice in the esports industry, which Newzoo predicts will hit $1.8 billion by 2022. We’re helping students prepare to participate in that enormous and growing market.”

Beyond the games, as Brooks notes, is the potential for those interested in STEM fields to get a kickstart on those pathways by gaining experience in related roles that can better prepare them for the future.

To that end, the organizations say their efforts will focus on four key components:

  • Recruitment. NASEF and NACE will work together so that member schools from K-12 are provided a direct pipeline to programs within the collegiate organization.
  • Scholarships. Aside from the millions available from NACE institutions, the two will work together to enhance NASEF’s Beyond the Game academic scholarships.
  • Championship events. The two groups plan to offer cohesive title selection, seasons and venues (as pandemic protocols allow) for major events in the fall and spring.
  • Education. Both organizations plan to take “an academic approach” to esports via all stakeholders, including faculty, students and coaches, with skill-building in STEM areas. They also plan to combine efforts on educational programming, while highlighting the opportunities that exist for students.

One of their first collaborative efforts has been a nationwide Earth Day 3D Ad competition to help students build skills using Unreal Engine and 3D video in advertising. Those vying for huge prizes include both high-school age students and college competitors.

For NASEF, which provides thousands of students with an academics-first approach to esports – especially through its connections to research arms like the University of California, Irvine,  and its curriculum offerings – this new partnership provides a chance to really grow that mission.

“This partnership will create strong connections between NASEF member students and colleges that are seeking top esports students and players,” said Gerald Solomon, founder and executive director of NASEF. “Until recently, esports has been a fledgling event in many school environments, but we’re seeing robust growth across the nation as schools adopt our play-and-learning combination that builds life and career skills. This partnership with NACE will now provide youth with the ability to better connect with relevant colleges and gain insight into opportunities for scholarships and quality education.”

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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