AL launches program to connect HBCU students, professional learning experiences

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivy announced the Alabama HBCU Co-Op Pilot Program to provide students at the state’s 14 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) with the opportunity for hands-on work experience in STEM fields as well as create greater collaboration between Alabama’s HBCUs, industry, and government. Participating students will be required to complete three co-op semesters with some of the state’s top companies in order to gain a sense of professional experience in the area of their majors. Upon successful completion of the program, students will receive a Certificate of Completion. The pilot program is scheduled to launch in early 2019.

Balancing STEM training and retraining needs

As the National Science Foundation announces awards for five new regional academic centers to encourage underrepresented populations to pursue and attain college degrees related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), a recent working paper from two Harvard researchers finds an explanation for the popularly perceived persistent shortage of STEM workers: changes in technology.  The rapid pace of technological change is making the skills of the existing STEM workforce obsolete in much shorter time than previously, flattening their wages and reducing opportunity for advancement after seeing an initial high wage premium at the beginning of their careers. 

NSF, NASA step up minority STEM-focused awards

As the National Science Foundation points out in a recent press release, people of Hispanic descent comprise 16 percent of the U.S. workforce, but only 6 percent of people working in STEM-related occupations.  Other minorities, including African Americans and Native Americans are also underrepresented in the career paths most critical to maintain American preeminence in innovation and science. New funding rounds distributed by three federal initiatives at NSF and NASA intend to help improve the imbalance.

STEM field facing multiple gaps

Noting that we have reached a point in time where STEM “influences every aspect of our education, work, and community life,” STEMconnector, a professional services firm, has released a new report that examines the current state of the field, identifies gaps and makes recommendations for action and investment. State of STEM highlights “five critical gaps” in the STEM workforce: a fundamental skills gap; belief gap; postsecondary education gap; geographic gap; and, demographic gap. The interaction of these gaps throughout the STEM ecosystem creates an overall opportunity gap for students and job seekers, a workforce development challenge for educators and a business imperative for employers, the report states.

Fewer STEM courses offered in high minority schools

The majority (75 percent) of all high school students were enrolled in a STEM course during the 2015-16 school year, according to the newest Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). For the first time, the CRDC includes new categories of data on STEM course taking, showing that some higher level math and science courses are offered at fewer high schools. That figure is even more pronounced at the approximately 5,000 high schools with high black and Latino enrollment (i.e. schools with more than 75 percent black and Latino student enrollment), where higher level mathematics and science courses are offered at a lower rate than the overall population of all high schools.

Useful Stats: R&D personnel by state and metro area

Across the nation, R&D at colleges and universities plays an important role in generating promising inventions, training our STEM talent pipeline, and supporting regional economic development. An SSTI analysis of National Science Foundation data finds that higher-education R&D (HERD) is a multi-billion dollar industry that directly employs nearly one million personnel on projects and grants in the United States. However, the locations of R&D projects and personnel differ greatly by state and region.

NSF finds gender inclusion benefit within programs

In a report of FY 2011-2016 data, the National Science Foundation finds that rate of female participants in its currently-funded Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) may be higher than for overall engineering programs. Specifically, participation among female faculty is better by about seven percent, by about 15 percent among female undergraduates, and a more modest 1-2 percent increase among doctorate students. This seems to be a significant gain in a field in which male Ph.D.-holders outnumber women 6:1 (per NSF data for 2015).

Second set of NSF INCLUDES awards focuses on increasing STEM diversity

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced the recipients of 27 Design and Development Launch Pilots as part of its INCLUDES initiative. The initiative is aimed at enhancing U.S. leadership in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) discoveries and innovations through a commitment to diversity and inclusion. The 27 pilots feature public-private partnerships that will develop blueprints for broadening STEM participation and are funded through two-year, $300,000 grants. Although the vast majority of awardees are based at universities, the program attempts to engage partners from private and corporate philanthropy, industry, non-profits, K-12 school systems, federal agencies and scientific professional societies, and any other organizations affiliated with STEM. A key feature of NSF INCLUDES is its focus on uniting a wide variety of collaborators to generate pioneering solutions to persistent problems. These pilot projects will create an infrastructure that enables large-scale coordination and wider STEM participation.

Creating tomorrow’s STEM leaders in AZ schools

Arizona schools are taking a different approach to developing the next generation of STEM workers and leaders with the Chief Science Officer position, now in 120 schools across the state. The students, from grades six to 12, are elected by their peers and participate in training events where they learn about STEM activities and careers and can advocate for STEM education in their schools. Throughout the year, the students work with industry professionals or community mentors to apply their knowledge in real-world settings. Partners from a variety of organizations help support the training institutes for the students, and frequently host event at their sites or visit the schools. The program garnered the attention of former president Barack Obama and has sparked interest in other states and regions. The Arizona program is a collaborative initiative of Arizona Commerce Authority and Arizona Technology Council Foundation.

Record number of doctoral degrees conferred in US in 2015, NSF

U.S. institutions of higher education awarded 55,006 research doctorate degrees in 2015 according to the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED). This figure represents the highest number ever reported. The report also highlights several other multi-year trends.


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