A recent panel discussion hosted by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, showcased the importance of an education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
The panel discussion was held during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBCF) Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.
Moderated by former NASA engineer Aisha Bowe, the co-founder of STEMBoard, the panel included STEAM ambassador and Patcasso Art LLC founder Patrick Hunter; Quality Education for Minorities CEO Dr. Ivory Toldson; Johns Hopkins chair and Surgeon in Chief Dr. Robert Higgins; and INROADS, Inc. President and CEO Forest T. Harper.
Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) kicked off the conversation, which was focused on increasing opportunities in STEM careers for underrepresented youth.
“The STEM field is important to our country, it’s critical to jobs in the 21st century—jobs that make the big bucks,” Butterfield told the excited students from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and Carver Technology Early College High School, who participated in the session. “To succeed, we need to draw from the best in our community.”
Butterfield continued: “The lack of African-Americans in STEM means that many of our best minds are not included.”
In 2016, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and Carver Technology Early College High School formed a partnership with Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Kaiser Permanente, and the University of Maryland at Baltimore for a P-TECH program that offers health science degrees in areas of concentration like health information technology, respiratory care, or surgical technology.
The program creates a school-to-industry pipeline for students in STEM fields.
Eugene Chung Qui, the principal at Dunbar High School, said the visit to the CBCF event excited his students, who are enrolled in STEM courses.
“Being that our focus and the mission of the school is to push our students into STEM fields, this is an excellent opportunity for the children to be able to talk with and ask questions of such an esteemed panel,” Chung Qui said.
Another panelist, Tamberlin Golden of General Motors, noted the company’s passion for STEM.
“Technology, right now, is disrupting everything in the industry,” Golden said. “Now, people are looking for connectivity, autonomy, electrification, and convenience. We have to monitor thoroughly how we manufacture our cars.”
Tamberlin continued: “If you want to make a good wage from ‘Day 1,’ you want to go [with STEM]. GM has been very invested in this and we want to partner with many organizations.”
A report released, earlier this year, from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration revealed that there were nine million STEM workers in the United States in 2015.
About 6.1 percent of all workers are in STEM occupations, up from 5.5 percent just five years earlier, according to the report.
Employment in STEM occupations grew much faster than employment in non-STEM occupations over the last decade—24.4 percent versus 4 percent, respectively—and STEM occupations are projected to grow by 8.9 percent through 2024, compared to 6.4 percent growth for non- STEM occupations.
STEM workers command higher wages, earning 29 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts.
Further, nearly three-quarters of STEM workers have at least a college degree, compared to just over one-third of non-STEM workers.
The report also revealed that STEM degree holders enjoy higher earnings, regardless of whether they work in STEM or non-STEM occupations.
According to the Commerce Department, a STEM degree holder can expect an earnings premium of 12 percent over non-STEM degree holders, holding all other factors constant.
“When I was in high school, I was a truant and I was unfocused, because my parents were going through a nasty divorce and I just wanted to go hang out with my friends,” said Bowe, an aeronautical engineer and entrepreneur who manages multi-million dollar defense contracts and private-sector technology clients.
“I started with pre-algebra,” Bowe shared, then speaking directly to the students she said, “We want you to understand that in entering STEM, you’re entering into an unlimited field.”