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43~ John Yochelson, President Building Engineering and Science Talent (BEST) BACKGROUND Building Engineering and Science Talent (BEST) is a public-private partnership incorporated a week before the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. The establishment of such a partnership had been proposed a year earlier in Land of Plenty, the report of the Congressional Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development. BEST's three-year mission is to develop and execute a national action plan to increase the participation of the "underrepresented majority" women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in technical fields. Underrepresented groups constitute two thirds of the U.S. workforce, but hold only about one-fourth of the jobs in science, engineering, and technology. DEFINING THE CHALLENGE The United States should be moving aggressively to meet its current and projected needs for scientific and technical talent, with special focus on the changing face of America. The nation is not doing so for several reasons: · Public attention has scarcely begun to focus on the forces that are reshaping the supply side of the equation the emergence of women as the new majority in higher education and the pattern of population growth that is transforming America into a majority of minorities. · The globalization of technical talent has created difficult trade-offs between the nation's short-term needs and its long-term stake in home-
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rota grown scientists and engineers. Whereas human capital still takes two decades or more to develop, U.S. access to international talent has become almost immediate. · Many of the barriers that limit the participation of under-repre- sented groups in science, engineering, and technology persist. It will take a concerted national effort to remove barriers that are formal and infor- mal, institutional and attitudinal, stark and subtle. The challenge of building a stronger, more diverse science and engi- neering workforce is generational in time horizon and comprehensive in scope. No sector of the economy industry, government, or academe- can meet the challenge on its own. Decisive action is required now to put the nation on a trajectory that will serve long-term U.S. national interests. PRIORITIES FOR ACTION 1. Fill the Knowledge Gap The nation needs to know what is really working in elementary and high school mathematics, freshman physics and chemistry, graduate schools, and corporate R&D teams to develop and draw upon the talent of underrepresented groups. The same wheels are being reinvented and the same mistakes made on a daily basis in every part of the country. Au- thoritative, readily accessible information on best-in-class and exception- ally promising programs, lessons from success and failure, and insights into scaling up would be of great value to employers, educators, parents, and students as well as policymakers at the national, state, and local lev- els. BEST has organized blue ribbon panels of nationally recognized ex- perts in pre-K through 12, higher education, and workforce development to help fill this knowledge gap. 2. Engage Communities The place to start translating knowledge into action is in communities across the country. Here the interests of industry, government, education, and the nonprofit sector intersect. Civic leaders who know what works are in a position to make concrete decisions to expand capacity to develop and retain the talent of underrepresented groups. A pilot group of com- munities willing to follow through on commitments to adopt best prac- tices could set a powerful leadership example for others. 3. Develop a Galvanizing National Agenda There is no substitute for national leadership to generate the will and the resources needed to make serious headway over the next decade. As is the case with the war on terrorism, there is no quick fix for the challenge of underrepresentation. Equally, there is a parallel need for a cohesive national strategy based on a compelling vision, clear objectives, and ac-
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PAN-~CANIZAHONAL SUMMIT tionable priorities. The vision that should inform such a strategy is one of affirmative opportunity to develop the scientific and technical talents of every child in America. The objective that makes sense is to create a scien- tific and technical workforce that reflects the emerging demographics. PRIORITIES FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT Congress and the executive branch must lead on the issue of under- representation. This will involve giving voice to the national need and backing that voice with direction and resources. Four priorities stand out: 1. Maximize the Value of Current Programs The National Science Foundation, Department of Education, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, NASA, and other agencies have longstanding records of commitment to underrepresented groups. But federal resources are scattered and would have greater impact if they were more closely aligned. An interagency initiative to ensure that such alignment would enhance both the effectiveness and the credibility of federal investment. Other national programs, such as the National Teachers Corps, which recruits up to 75,000 qualified teachers annually to serve in high-need schools, should be expanded and strengthened with such measures as including subsidies for the acquisition of teach- ing credentials. 2. Consider a Bold Federal Initiative While such programs are important, it may be even more worthwhile to consider a bold initiative similar to the National Defense Education Act of 1958, when Congress found "that an educational emergency exists and requires action by the federal government." 3. Leverage Federal Dollars Federal investments to develop a stronger, more diverse talent pool should not stand alone but should be matched by states and local commu- nities. The 25 states in which minorities make up at least 25 percent of the pre-K through 12 student population deserve priority attention. 4. Increase Investment Congress and the executive branch cannot just re-divide the pie, but must allocate fresh resources to expand educational opportunities in mathemat- ics and science for underrepresented groups. Important new initiatives, such as NSF's five-year $1 billion Mathematics and Science Partnerships, should represent net increases in investment. Programs that have a track record of proven value should be expanded. New investments that prom- ise to make a real difference, such as Pell-like financial aid grants for underrepresented students in science and engineering majors, deserve serious consideration.
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PRIORITIES FOR EDUCATION rig - Research universities have a special leadership responsibility. Not only are they strategically positioned between pre-K through 12 and the workplace, but they will educate the successor generation of American scientists and engineers. The list of "must-do's" for research universities should include: 1. Strengthen the University Presence in Pre-K through 12 Mathemat- ics and Science Education The crown jewels of the nation's educational institutions must engage far more intensively in the feeder system. One model that is producing re- sults entails adopting students from low-income school districts from sev- enth through twelfth grade. These students receive advanced instruction in algebra, chemistry, physics, and trigonometry, as well as mentoring and college financial planning seminars for students and their parents. Such models should be shared among research universities, adapted as needed, and scaled nationwide. At the same time, universities should de- velop alternatives to the traditional admissions process to ensure that the abilities of prospective students from underrepresented groups are fairly and accurately assessed. 2. Nurture the Undergraduate and Graduate Education of Underrepre- sented Groups Slowing the attrition of women, African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and students with disabilities will have the greatest immedi- ate impact on the science and engineering talent pool. The causes of such attrition are understood and models exist for mitigating such attrition. The problem must be addressed by the presidents, deans, department chairs, and tenured faculty who have the authority to change the learning environment. 3. Expand Faculty Diversity One of the greatest barriers to increasing the production of underrepre- sented groups is the absence of role models both in teaching and in re- search. Leaders of the nation's research institutions must commit jointly to transform the composition of their junior and tenured faculties. PRIORITIES FOR INDUSTRY Internationally competitive companies are the U.S. economy's greatest assets, but many also face high-stakes choices between going global or strengthening both their R&D and production bases at home. The commit- ment of these companies to develop and utilize more homegrown science and engineering talent is indispensable. Their agendas should include:
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PAN-~CANIZAHONAL SUMMIT 1. Strengthen the Corporate Presence in Pre-K through 12 Mathematics and Science Education Although some of the nation's most prominent corporate leaders have set leadership examples, industry's commitment must become a norm across the board. The professional development of mathematics and science teachers in middle school and high school is a logical focal point. In addition, discipline-based teacher models that enable scien- tists and engineers to transition from industry into teaching have great potential value. 2. Embed Diversity in R&D Partnerships with Universities Companies that invest in university-based research should make clear that increased diversity would enhance the value of collaboration, and that diversity is a criterion that routinely will affect the selection of future part- ners. Statements by the nation's leading industry groups underscoring this point would send a powerful message. 3. Create a Culture of Inclusiveness in the Workplace Although the business case for diversity is widely accepted, an energetic recruiting policy falls far short of what is needed to enable scientists and engineers from underrepresented groups to contribute to the full measure of their abilities. Attention at the highest executive levels is a necessity in companies large and small. PRIORITIES FOR NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS Foundations, professional societies, and the institutional advocates of underrepresented groups have an important role to play at the national level. Aligning their efforts is a challenge all its own, but it is essential that leaders of these varied organizations work together to advance common interests. Their collaboration should focus on two main priorities: 1. Project a More Positive Public Image of Science, Engineering, and Technology Making technical careers more attractive to all Americans, especially the underrepresented, is a prerequisite of meaningful long-term progress. A coalition of foundations, professional societies, and other allied groups could bring powerful assets to bear in any such under- taking financial resources and national outreach to millions of con- cerned individuals. 2. Mobilize at the Grass Roots More professional societies of scientists and engineers should put diver- sity front and center on their agendas, taking active roles in helping uni- versity departments reduce attrition and prepare future faculty. Corre- spondingly, foundations could produce a national multiplier by making
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rid Jo mathematics and science more prominent in their focus on school reform. When the critical nature of the nation's need for adequate science and engineering capability is understood fully and when the national will is engaged, the United States can and will gather the resources to rebuild that workforce.
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