Press Release

Subcommittee Highlights Importance of Federal Investment in STEM Education to Secure American Competitiveness

By SpaceRef Editor
March 13, 2013
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(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Research held a hearing on industry and non-profit philanthropic (STEM) initiatives. Testifying before the Subcommittee were Ms. Shelly Esque, President of the Intel Foundation and Vice President of Legal and Corporate Affairs and Director of the Corporate Affairs Group at Intel Corporation; Dr. Bob Smith, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Engineering and Technology at Honeywell Aerospace; Dr. Vince Bertram, President and Chief Executive Office at Project Lead the Way; and Ms. Andrea Ingram, Vice President of Education and Guest Services at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Subcommittee Members and witnesses highlighted the important role the Federal government plays in developing STEM education initiatives to ensure that our country has the workforce necessary to compete in the 21st century global economy. Members and witnesses also addressed the critical importance of partnerships between Federal science agencies and organizations and industry such as those represented at the hearing. The hearing also included a discussion of the value of STEM training and science and technology literacy for all students, including those who elect not to enter STEM fields.

Ranking Member Dan Lipinski (D-IL) addressed the need for a comprehensive approach to improving STEM education and Federal investments in STEM education. “We know that improving STEM education is a complex problem with no easy or one-size-fits-all solution. Therefore, we all must work together – the private sector, nonprofits, colleges and universities, school districts, and local, state, and federal governments – to find solutions that fit specific needs. If the U.S. wants to remain the global leader in innovation and technology, we have to tackle these challenges with an “all hands on deck” approach…unfortunately, our Federal investments in STEM education…have stagnated and are even being questioned. This is not a good strategy for educating and training our next generation of STEM workers and strengthening American competitiveness. We must continue to address this challenge, so I hope this first hearing on STEM education is one of many during this Congress, and that future hearings will look at the role of other stakeholders, including the Federal Government.”

In her testimony, Ms. Ingram stated, “STEM education investments by NSF, NOAA and NASA are critical to our success. Our nation’s economic success, global competitiveness and national security depend on a scientifically literate and skilled workforce–not just scientists and engineers but nurses, medical technicians, biotechnology lab technicians and even manufacturing plant supervisors…Without the programmatic support that NSF, NOAA, and NASA offer through these nationally competitive STEM education grants, we will lose sources of new leadership and ideas at a critical time. This loss will be a detriment to our economy because we will have failed to prepare our next generation of innovators and scientists.”

Ms. Esque addressed the value of public-private partnerships. “Intel and the Intel Foundation do the vast majority of our work in education and philanthropy through partnerships…Our goal is always to maximize the impact of our investment by using our funding and influence to bring together coalitions that can greatly increase the scope and scalability of what we could do on our own. We believe that governments and their agencies are essential partners for scaling solutions. We believe other corporations bring real world experience and pragmatism – and often the kinds of marketing and communications skills that help to tell the story of critical work to a larger audience. We believe that non-profits in the education arena with a track record of effectiveness and impact help us to understand the needs and voices of the clients or ‘customers’ they serve so well.”

Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) emphasized the importance not only of retaining students who are already engaged in higher studies, but also continuing to inspire new generations of children to pursue STEM careers. “I wanted to touch on a couple of points; one, as a mother of three children, one who’s doing astrophysics, and as someone who grew up going to the Museum of Science and Industry, as many of us here were inspired to do. It’s not just keeping them in school at the university level but having them even aspire to that. So I wanted to explore both the question about women and minorities, and inclusiveness, which I think has got to start in much younger grades. It’s much too late if you wait until university.”

Mr. Smith also addressed this point in his testimony. “Now is the time for us to strengthen and improve our nation’s future. By taking a pro-active approach to STEM education we increase the opportunity for innovations in a variety of disciplines benefiting not only the United States, but the people of the world. We must seize the opportunity to develop the next wave of innovators, scientists and engineers in order to make a positive impact in the years to come.”

Ms. Ingram added, “What we know, what the research is quite clear about, is that college access, getting them to that point, getting them to college, is that critical barrier. If we can broaden and diversify the pool of potential scientists and innovators with our underrepresented communities, including more women and minorities, we know that if we can get them into college they are as likely and, in fact, more likely to pursue STEM careers and stay in those STEM careers.”

Members also asked the panel to respond to the important role STEM education plays in enhancing the careers of students who pursue other kinds of degrees and careers. Mr. Bertram responded, “When I think of high school engineering, we are not training engineers, we are training critical thinkers, problem solvers, students that understand how to collaborate, work in a team environment, we are teaching computation thinking – these critical skills that are transferable, really, to any career.”

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SpaceRef staff editor.