STEM Role Models Needed


America will continue losing its competitive edge unless we increase the number of students graduating from high school, entering college and interested in pursuing a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-based education and career. With one in five STEM workers currently foreign-born, I propose we look to America for the solution. Specifically, American Latinos.

With STEM jobs growing at three times the rate of other jobs in the past decade, someone has to fulfill those jobs and it needs to be youth.  In addition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in STEM fields will grow 22 percent from 2004 to 2014, requiring nearly two million new professionals to fill gap left by retiring baby boomers (each day, 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 for next 19 years). The dilemma is that Latinos are graduating from high school at just-over 50 percent and only nine percent of freshman in high school today will end up graduating from college. So there’s a lot of work to be done but America’s future is counting on us. This is a call to action to our youth but mostly to our young role models to make an impact on others!  

With that in mind, the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) has developed a unique and effective continuum in the STEM fields which starts with identifying Latino high school seniors in across the country through the Hispanic Heritage Youth Awards and then are funneled into the Latinos On Fast Track (LOFT) leadership and workforce development program while in college and into careers. By joining LOFT’s network, Latino students will be connected to each other, older Latinos who can provide mentoring, and to experienced professionals for support. HHF also works with government agencies and Fortune 500 companies to provide internships, mentorships, fellowships and full-time positions. That supportive connectivity is crucial for Latinos, especially in STEM fields. And there is no shortage of talent with 75,000 members of the LOFT Network (ages 17-30). 

However, at the core of our efforts are role models who can be leveraged to inspire younger Latinos who are underserved and overwhelmed. In the public awareness space, HHF has developed partnerships with national media partners and in the social media space to promote young Latino role models in the STEM fields to Latino students and their parents. We also work with celebrities to help deliver our messages such as Actress America Ferrera, Singer Pitbull or Juanes (for an example, see this video).

And with research showing that the average Hispanic high school senior does math at the same level as a Caucasian eighth grader, these STEM role-models will play a significant role in developing a pipeline of future STEM workers. So, join LOFT Network and get connected, get inspired, get on the fast track!   

Antonio Tijerino is the President and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.  Visit www.HispanicHeritage.org.