1. Why does STEM matter to your organization?
Among all industries, the aerospace and defense industry is uniquely affected by American students’ waning interest and disappointing performance in STEM subjects. Many positions in our companies can only be filled by U.S. citizens because they require security clearances. Corporations cannot outsource those jobs or fill them with foreign nationals, so we must ensure that American students are well prepared for the STEM workforce upon which our nation’s security depends. The issue is particularly pressing with 17 percent of our workforce eligible to retire today and more than 30 percent eligible by 2016.
2. What is your organization doing about it?
For decades, aerospace companies have supported STEM education and workforce preparation with funding, scholarships, internships, and volunteers. We estimate our collective contributions to exceed $160 million annually. Since 2006, AIA member companies have been working together to address STEM workforce issues strategically for more impact and stronger results. No one company can do everything, but by collaborating within our industry and in partnership with other industries, government, academia and the philanthropic community, all can participate in a systemic approach that promotes real change. AIA spearheaded the formation of the Business and Industry STEM Education Coalition to drive such collaboration at the federal, state and local levels. (see www.SETforJOBS.org)
3. Has your organization been successful at reaching its STEM goals? (Please feel free to point to specific programs.)
The STEM workforce is a multi-faceted, long-term challenge for our industry and the nation. While there is lots of work remaining, signs of progress are evident. The level of awareness and engagement are growing around the country: best practices in STEM education and ways to get involved effectively are becoming publicized. AIA’s signature STEM program, the Team America Rocketry Challenge, is proving effective in attracting students to STEM courses and careers in aerospace and related fields. These encouraging indicators signify that strategic, sustained effort can yield the results we seek.
4. If you could have three wishes granted by the STEM genie, what would they be?
- That our country allocates more funding for cutting edge R&D and innovative production programs to retain the nation’s leadership in technologies and STEM workforce.
- That more young people who enter college with an interest in a STEM major persist to achieve a degree in a STEM subject – especially, engineering.
- That we identify and support ways of stimulating, nurturing and sustaining the natural curiosity about and interest in STEM that all young children demonstrate.
5. Beyond your organization, what one thing should be done now to help solve the STEM crisis?
Leaders and role models in every walk of life should take on the responsibility to inspire and encourage young people to excel in education – and particularly in science and math. Every STEM-capable adult should mentor young people, and community leaders should communicate to the public the importance of STEM education and workforce preparation for our national well-being, as well as personal success.
Co-chair Highlight: Aerospace Industries Association
Aerospace Industries Association represents the nation’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of civil, military, and business aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aircraft systems, space systems, aircraft engines, missiles, materiel and related components, equipment, services and information technology.
Thank you, AIA, for your support in the Summit.