STEM and Workforce Development Legislation
on January 4, 2009
There is no shortage of jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (ahem, STEM). In fact, while overall U.S. unemployment is rising, STEM industries are looking for qualified applicants. A 2008 study by the Interagency Aerospace Revitalization Task Force concluded that lack of U.S. students with strong skills in STEM subjects -- added to a retiring aerospace workforce -- could equal a catastrophic shortage of skilled workers.
To combat this dilemma, legislatures are drafting initiatives to stimulate STEM. Read on to see how governments plan to link STEM with the workforce of tomorrow.
House Resolution 6104
Introduced by Sen. Barack Obama and Rep. Michael Honda, this bill aims to coordinate state and federal STEM initiatives while increasing the number of students entering the STEM workforce as well as the quality of education for these students.
This bill also addresses the need to diversify the STEM field by increasing the presence of women and underrepresented groups. Through the State Consortium on STEM Education, this legislation would develop STEM Career Awareness programs with high school counselors, featuring mentoring programs and professional outreach. Under the Consortium, STEM vocational programs may also be developed to meet STEM industry workforce demands.
House Resolution 2272
H.R. 2272 is sponsored by Rep. Barton Gordon. One provision of the bill seeks have the director of the National Science Foundation award up to 200 grants to universities promoting master's degrees in STEM subjects. The bill also aims to develop strategies for attracting more women and underrepresented minority groups into the STEM industry.
Another issue addressed is NASA's aging workforce. It requires that NASA be a "full participant in any interagency effort" to promote STEM education, with an annual report of activities the agency conducted or took part in.
House Resolution 3634
Sponsored by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, The STEP act provides incentive for students to pursue STEM-related degrees in the form of scholarships and loan forgiveness. The loan forgiveness program is for currently employed engineers and students in science, technology and engineering undergraduate and graduate programs. Eligible borrowers, under the Federal Family Education Loan and Direct Loan Programs, must remain employed as an engineer for eight years and become licensed as a professional engineer within eight years of completing their degree. This act is an amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965, which authorized the Secretary of Education to award STEP scholarships to students pursuing secondary or post-secondary degrees in STEM subjects.
House Resolution 4137
Sponsored by Rep. George Miller, this act would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965, effectively revising and reauthorizing HEA programs. Section 309 of this amendment addresses STEM by establishing the YES Partnerships grant program to foster projects promoting the pursuit of STEM-related careers among underrepresented K-12 students. This section also allocates funding for an ad campaign encouraging American youth to consider careers in STEM fields -- particularly directed toward Latin-Americans, African-Americans and women.
House Resolution 362
This bill was sponsored by Rep. Barton Gordon, authorizing the allocation of $1.5 billion to fund existing and new programs supporting the training and professional expansion of school teachers in STEM subjects. The bill could possibly, through improving the quality of STEM teachers, improve student knowledge of -- and zeal for -- STEM subjects. This bill could help increase the national number of students opting for careers in STEM subjects.
Programs receiving funds are housed within the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy, and are subject to the bill's stipulations -- including increasing the number of STEM certified teachers by 10,000 per year and improving overall teacher quality. Funds are to be appropriated for fiscal years 2008 through 2011.
Signed into legislation by Gov. Linda Lingle, Act 111 is a move to promote the Hawaii Innovation Initiative. A goal of this initiative is to develop analytical and problem-solving skills in Hawaii's students through promoting STEM education.
"The programs established under this bill are part of a long-term effort to develop the innovation capacity of Hawaii's workforce," said Lingle in a press release.
The bill establishes programs in fields such as engineering, computing and robotics, offered through the University of Hawaii, various Hawaii community colleges, the Department of Education and other private businesses. The bill allocates $5 million toward these programs for fiscal years '08 and '09.
Grant Award: U.S. Department of Labor
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley announced that the U.S. Department of Labor awarded a grant to two Iowa workforce development projects. The grant, allocated from National Emergency Grant funds through the Workforce Investment Act, is meant to stimulate STEM workforce development. One of the two Iowa programs receiving the $500,000 grant is Iowa Workforce Development out of Des Moines. The grant will help the program establish a Workforce Innovation Strategy and Planning Office which will facilitate a feasibility study on establishing a STEM Workforce Academy/Center of Excellence. This project will span across Cherokee, Crawford, Ida, Monona, Plymouth and Woodbury counties.
Florida STEM Opportunities in Workforce System Initiative
Workforceflorida.com published a U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration STEM funding opportunity announcement. Five awards totaling up to $10 million will be awarded with a $2 million cap on single awards. Eligible applicants are workforce investment boards, or WIBs, representing regional workforce consortiums. Grant applications will be considered in two parts through a competitive process. Grants will be awarded to programs fostering the expansion of "STEM workforce education and training strategies, activities, and resources in One Stop Career Centers."
Qualifying proposals must include STEM coaches and mentors to connect participants to employers -- acting as workforce guidance counselors. These STEM coaches will also create "career blueprints," charting a career path for each program participant. Funds will be awarded fall 2008.
Florida, California, Texas, New York, Virginia and Illinois
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Employment Statistics survey, these six states accounted for 40% of nationwide STEM related occupations in 2005.
Colorado expects to see a 20% growth rate in STEM occupations 2005-2015
55% is the expected growth rate between 2004 and 2014 for network systems and data communications analysts -- a budding STEM occupation. This group includes the people who design and install computer networks.
*This story is from Converge magazine's Summer 2008 issue.
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