Do the Math: How Can America Meet the Workforce Demands of the Future?

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Here’s an equation. The first variable is that the United States faces a dwindling number of young people who are interested in careers in science, technology, engineering and math – commonly known as STEM. Add in the retirement of an entire generation of baby boomers and factor in the huge increase in STEM jobs over the next decade. The math doesn’t add up in our favor. Our nation comes up short as we look at talent for the future.

In the U.S., employment growth in STEM industries is outpacing the rest of the economy by 300 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. And these jobs pay well. According to the National Education Association, the average professional with a STEM degree earns about $78,000 per year, well above the average American salary of $43,000. The jobs will be there - but will we have young workers who are able to fill them?

In celebration of “STEM Week,” Raytheon is participating in a number of activities to tackle this challenge, from the launch of a national index measuring America’s STEM preparedness to a science festival in Washington, D.C. It's also sponsoring a cyber defense competition in San Antonio, Texas as part of efforts to encourage a new generation of engineers.

How well is the U.S. preparing today’s students?

To help answer that question, U.S. News and Raytheon launched the STEM Index - it’s the first comprehensive index that measures the key factors relating to STEM jobs and education.

The index finds that although we are making strides in some areas, we continue to fall short in preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s innovation workforce. Student aptitude and interest has been mostly flat for more than a decade even as the need for STEM skills continues to grow. The pipeline of talent that's needed to fill the current and future jobs that require STEM skills is not adequate to meet the demand.

Read more on the U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index.

Coming together to address the challenge

Industry, government and education leaders are bonding together at our nation’s capital April 23-27, 2014 to address this challenge head on. Kicking off “STEM Week” is the U.S. News STEM Solutions National Leadership Conference, a three-day event focused on addressing the shortage of STEM skills in the American workforce.

On Friday, U.S. News will induct Raytheon’s Chairman William H. Swanson into the U.S. News STEM Hall of Fame, recognizing him for his leadership in advancing STEM education and preparing the next generation of engineers and scientists.

“As someone who benefitted from STEM mentorship as a young man, I have tremendous passion for inspiring students to pursue STEM subjects,” said William H. Swanson, Chairman of Raytheon Company prior to the event. “STEM education is critical to our nation’s competitiveness and position of leadership. For nearly a decade, Raytheon’s MathMovesU® initiative has inspired students to develop a genuine interest in math and science, one that opens up a world of career possibilities. We need to show by example how rewarding STEM careers can be.”

Swanson and the other three honorees were chosen from a group of industry, academic and nonprofit leaders.

Read more in this Q&A with Swanson.

Inspiring the next generation

Closing out the week is the three-day USA Science & Engineering Festival, April 25-27 in Washington, D.C. – the largest and only national festival of its kind.

Raytheon will be among 750 STEM-focused organizations to exhibit at the festival. Visitors to the exhibit will get a rare behind-the-scenes look at how Raytheon processes the mountain of data that becomes part of every weather forecast in the country. Called the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System, this product plays a critical role in the ability of U.S. forecasters to make weather predictions that can save lives and safeguard property. Company engineers will also guide visitors in building and testing rockets.

“We know that it’s crucial to interest students at a young age in math and science if we want them to be academically prepared to pursue STEM degrees and eventual careers,” said Pamela Erickson, Raytheon’s vice president of corporate affairs. “As part of Raytheon’s MathMovesU program, we strive to inspire as many kids as we can through fun, hands-on activities and opportunities to meet real-life engineers.”

Recruiting talent to work in cyber

Attracting bright students who are pursuing STEM degrees as potential future employees is another important mission for Raytheon. One way the company is doing this is by sponsoring the nation's largest cyber defense competition for undergraduate and graduate students, April 25-27 in San Antonio, Texas. During the Raytheon National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition students from across the country compete to defend their own “commercial” network against an onslaught of cyber attacks.

Raytheon NCCDC asks student teams to assume administrative and protective duties for an existing network – typically a small company with 50+ users, seven to 10 servers, and common Internet services such as a web server, mail server and e-commerce site.  

Raytheon has hired former Raytheon NCCDC competitors, and as the need for cyber security solutions continues to increase, there will be more jobs to fill.

“Protecting networks is a big concern for industry, government and the military,” said Lynn Dugle, president of Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services. “But as a country, we haven’t trained enough people to protect these environments.”

Learn about Raytheon’s cyber solutions.

In the U.S., the Pentagon committed last month to hiring 6,000 new cyber professionals by 2016. At the same time, government and industry are increasing their demand for cyber experts at an annual rate of more than 11 percent in the next few years.

A recent Raytheon study shed light on the need to educate today’s students about the growing demand for cyber expertise — as 82 percent of high school-aged respondents said they had never heard about cyber security opportunities from their teachers or guidance counselors.

“It all begins with getting students interested when they’re young, and then showing them the many doors that studying STEM can open for a very successful future,” said Dugle.