While STEM job opportunities are growing, the pool of skilled applicants is not. STEM industries are also experiencing an extreme lack of diversity by overlooking and not effectively recruiting minority populations and women. These people could potentially fill the gap and bring new perspective on top of necessary skills to their companies.

Starting with schools

The NAF serves nearly 100,000 students in career-themed academies infused with STEM across the United States. Eighty-five percent of students are females or ethnic minorities, and NAF is committed to providing equal opportunity for all students – regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status.

High school is when young people start making decisions about what they want to do in their future careers; it’s the perfect time for businesses to start influencing their pathways. It is imperative that these young people have access to role models who look like them, so that they may begin to believe in the best possible future. Young people need exposure to the kinds of jobs they can pursue and what they need to do to get there.

“Girls need someone to relate to.”

Business and education

Angel Collins, a NAF Academy of Engineering alumna, always had an interest in math and producing products that help people. “I spent a lot of time thinking about where the women are in STEM,” she said. “Girls need someone to relate to.” In that search, Angel found a role model in Mae Jemison, the first black female NASA astronaut to travel to space in 1992. Angel used that inspiration to pursue a career in biomedical engineering so she can create prosthetics for those in need.

Business partners need to be involved in our country’s schools. When education and business work together, it is possible to close the skills gap, improve graduation rates and diversify our nation’s workforce. The power is in our hands to transform the high school experience and ensure that the next generation will be set up for success in a global marketplace.