To coax more young people in Baton Rouge into science and math fields, two nonprofit groups launched a recruiting drive Friday to persuade 100 local professionals to serve as mentors.

The goal of the new initiative, called STEMup Baton Rouge, is to line up mentors for as many as 850 middle school students. The initiative seeks mentors who work for local corporations and educational institutions in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields.

The recruiting is being handled by the Foundation for East Baton Rouge School System and Capital Area United Way. Capital One Bank has given the mentoring drive a $100,000 grant. The kickoff event for the drive was held Friday.

Mentors who are recruited for the program will follow a national middle-school curriculum called Engineering Everywhere, which focuses on project-based, hands-on learning. The mentors will work with students at school and after school at seven East Baton Rouge Parish middle schools: Beechwood, Broadmoor, Brookstown, Capitol, Glasgow, North Banks and Southeast.

Janet Pace, executive director of the Foundation for EBRSS, gave a presentation Thursday night to the School Board on the initiative and pointed to the great need for but low supply of STEM workers in the state.

Pace noted projections of 69,000 STEM job vacancies in Louisiana by 2018 and that a recent study ranked Baton Rouge “first” nationally for STEM jobs in the petrochemical industry and construction trades, about half of which require less than a bachelor’s degree.

Pace’s foundation has been trying for some time to increase STEM mentoring. Last year, it was named one of 13 finalists in the national US2020 City Competition, sponsored by the Clinton Global Initiative, although it didn’t make the final cut.