Officials Discuss Education Outreach for Hispanic Youth
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2012 The Defense Department’s director of Diversity Management joined other senior government officials to discuss federal efforts to encourage young people of Hispanic descent to obtain the education and knowledge necessary to enter technical occupations.
Stephanie Miller took part in a panel discussion entitled “Filling the STEM Pipeline” during an education conference at the Ronald Reagan Building here today hosted by Latino Magazine. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The conference was among events held to mark National Hispanic Heritage Month, which began Sept. 15 and runs to Oct. 15.
The Defense Department views education as a vital component of national security, since today’s students are potentially tomorrow’s service members and the U.S. military’s equipment and weaponry are becoming ever more sophisticated, Miller said.
The cyber realm, robotics and nuclear engineering, Miller said, are some of the high technology-intensive occupational fields that will be an important part of DOD’s future.
“We do have true [STEM] pipelines,” Miller said. “We have programs that focus on K[indergarten] through 12[th grade students] in terms of exposing them to science, engineering, math, technology, and we include the medical field in that, because a lot of our opportunities -- both on the uniformed side and the non-uniformed side -- are actually in the medical profession, as well.”
One example of DOD youth outreach is the STARBASE Program, which is managed by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs and operated by the military services. STARBASE is an acronym for Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration. STARBASE was created in 1989 through a grant from the Kellogg Foundation and first began at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan, according to the program’s website.
STARBASE is designed to raise the interest and improve the knowledge and skills of students in kindergarten through twelfth grade in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The program targets minority students and uses instruction modules specifically designed to meet specific STEM objectives. The elementary school program is currently designed to reach students at the fifth grade level who are underrepresented in the STEM areas of study and careers, according to the website.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that nearly 50 percent of new jobs in the next decade will be in the fields of science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Yet few Hispanic students, who constitute a quarter of the student body in U.S. public schools, are choosing those career fields.
Hispanics currently make up about 16 percent of the U.S. population, with approximately 25 million of them participating in America’s workforce, said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, the keynote speaker at’ today's event.
America’s investment in education and job training is essential to the nation’s future, Solis said, especially today “when we know that there are so many young people that still continue to drop out of high school, and those are our children.”
The Labor Department has several programs to help at-risk youth stay in school and continue their educations to achieve good jobs, she said.
“My dream is that we’re going to see more Latinos and Latinas occupying more seats at every level of our society, whether it’s at the Congressional level, the CEO level, the Fortune 500, and also in public policy-making arenas,” Solis said. “We still have not done a good job of making sure that we put all of our voices and our technology and our wherewithal together to increase the [Hispanic] representation across the board. And that remains a job that we still have to get done.”
The Labor Department also is working to assist veterans to find employment after they depart the military, she said.
“We need to help them make that transition,” Solis said.
Education of the nation’s youth is important to the U.S. economy, she said, because the world is relying more and more on technology to keep the wheels of commerce, industry and government turning.