Inclusive Stem Workforces
Veterans Innovation Network
The economic competitiveness and global leadership of the U.S. in cutting-edge technology and science-based fields are built upon a well-prepared and agile science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce. Optimizing a competitive STEM workforce relies on factors that reflect diversity in individual characteristics, perspectives, and capacities. “To remain competitive in the global economy, foster greater innovation, and provide a foundation for shared prosperity, the United States needs a workforce with the right mix of skills to meet the diverse needs of the economy. Conversely, an insufficiently skilled workforce can impose significant burdens on the economy, including higher costs to workers and employers and lower economic productivity” (NASEM, 2017, p. 2). Accordingly, calls have been issued for strategies that can expand and develop a strong STEM workforce that encompasses and takes advantage of the country’s human capital potential and diverse population (e.g., NAS, 2007, 2010; NSF, 2017; NASEM, 2017). Relevant preparation for building and supporting a diverse and competitive STEM workforce involves outreach and recruitment informed by subsystems encompassing scientists and engineers, educational and training institutions, innovation networks, and employing organizations across academia, industry, and government sectors.
Currently, the Advancing Inclusive Stem Workforces Project, focuses on exploring policy approaches to enhance inclusion of underrepresented individuals in the STEM workforce. Specifically, we focus in this project on in people with disabilities and military veterans. As is the case with many other underrepresented individuals and groups, individuals with disabilities and veterans have faced various barriers to participation and constitute a special category of persons marked for attention in terms of representation and protections, as delineated in the Americans for Disabilities Act (1990). About one in nine scientists and engineers aged 75 and younger has a disability and is more likely to be unemployed than those without disabilities (NSF, 2017). As a group, individuals with disabilities are underrepresented in the STEM workforce compared with the college-educated population as a whole. This is also the case for participation of veterans in the STEM workforce (Jensen, et al., 2011; Routon, 2014; Potter, 2015).
Policy Approaches for Advancing the Inclusive STEM Workforce
Translating policy into practice is a key path to generating desired objectives. In other work, we have proposed developing three tools that have potential for increasing participation of two target groups in the STEM workforce. The tools build on the foundations of the Science of Broadening Participation (SoBP) report (Husbands Fealing & McNeely, 2016), and a subsequent policy paper that explored some of the considerations related to increasing participation of individuals with disabilities and veterans in STEM occupations. The paper proposed development of a set of approaches that could further these objectives. The first was the design of a Professional Inclusive Innovation Network (PIIN) with regional nodes, bringing together successful industry innovators, academic and technical specialists, and young STEM professionals. The proposed PIIN would develop a network of mentors, advocates, and others to inform the SoBP community and other stakeholders and capture relevant data for research and policy purposes. Specifically, this approach seeks to connect industry professionals and organizations to STEM professionals (in this case people with disabilities and veterans) in order to increase awareness of an under-recognized population, and also to increase awareness of young professionals in STEM fields of the array of possibilities for participation in related areas. Two additional approaches were proposed: 1) collaboratively developing a ‘toolkit’ to inform policy-makers, industry professionals, STEM professionals and other stakeholders with cases, approaches, and best practices that promote STEM workforce participation for people with disabilities and veterans; and, 2) standing up an observatory for the targeted networking of STEM professionals for data collection and sharing of effective practices.
Collaborative Design Workshop: Veterans Innovation Network (VIN)
Too often social interventions (be it economic, policy, or technological) are designed, developed and implemented in a top-down mode. While more straightforward to implement, they may not take into account the specific conditions of the target stakeholders. To address this concern, we are proposing that a beta node of the PIIN be prototyped using a participatory design process. The prototype node will focus on increasing STEM workforce engagement by veterans. During the initial prototyping stage, a small, targeted workshop bringing together key stakeholders (including veterans, industry representatives, advocates, entrepreneurs and the public sector) will be held. The small, in-person one day event, to be held on the campus of Georgia Tech, will consist of facilitated breakout sessions to identify most significant issues, and then work through these issues to further identify gaps in knowledge sharing, areas of improvement, and elements of collaboration.
These would then be used in the design of the prototype PIIN node. In this case we anticipate that the participants will both help identify key aspects of the local network and participate in the network activities. This would include identification of additional members, serving as the knowledge and mentoring base, helping to identify key resources and establishing a community of practice as well as contributing to the building of an in-person and online community. Members would be encouraged to reach out to new potential industry/start-ups and training members, and most importantly in identifying potential veterans who might benefit from participation in the local PIIN node.
Given Atlanta’s high tech, start-up community, academic resources, and STEM related industries, along with the Department of Veterans Affairs presence, it represents an ideal location to explore development of a prototype PIIN node.
For Further information on the VIN contact: Andrew Hanus email@example.com
For Further Information on the SoBP Project contact: Paul.firstname.lastname@example.org
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). Building America’s Skilled Technical Workforce. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
National Academy of Sciences. (2007). Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
National Academy of Sciences. (2010). Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
National Science Foundation. (2017). Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in
Science and Engineering 2017. NSF 17-310. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation.
Fealing, K. H., & McNeely, C. L., (2016). “Symposium on the Science of Broadening Participation,” Report on the Symposium held 26-27 February 2016, Arlington, VA. https://www.nsf.gov/sbe/scisip/SoBP_Symposium_report_final.pdf
Jenson, R. J., Petri, A. N., Day, A. D., Truman, K. Z., & Duffy, K. (2011). Perceptions of self-efficacy among STEM students with disabilities. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 24(4), 269-283.
Potter, K. (2015). The Many Rewards of Hiring Veterans. Journal of Multistate Taxation and Incentives, 24(9), 26-28.
Routon, P. W. (2014). The Effect of 21st Century Military Service on Civilian Labor and Educational Outcomes. Journal of Labor Research, 35(1).