In the modern world, it becomes hard to neglect the need for the workforce in such fields as science, technology, engineering, and math, also known as STEM. Many communities and specific organizations pay their attention to the development of this sphere and the necessity to improve the level of knowledge among the youth. According to Tanenbaum (2014), historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) continue holding an advantage in the American effort to increase the Black nation’s participation in STEM development.
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Today’s society is challenged by improvements in technical education and the development of training programs and skills. As a result, the concerns about racial diversity, gaps in education, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) changes, and global competitiveness bother the population of the United States. In this article, the role of HBCUs in the development of the future STEM workforce will be discussed to identify the worth of the connection between the country’s economic, education, and social sectors.
Racial Diversity in the United States
For a long period of time, the United States has been known as the non-Hispanic White nation with a small group of African Americans, American Indians, or Asians. At this moment, the United States Census Bureau (2019) gives the following numbers: 76.5% – Whites, 13.4% Blacks, Asians – 5.9%, and American Indians – 1.3%. The number of underrepresented minority groups increases (tripling) with time (The National Academies of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2011). Colby and Ortman (2014) discover that the population growth is expected by 2044, with the United States to be a plurality nation.
These changes make the country look different compared to its 50-year-ago situation when a distinction between the majority and minority communities was evident (Espinosa, McGuire, & Jackson, 2019). Today, racial diversity in the U.S. population is explained by its natural increase (more births than death among minority groups) (Chappell, 2017). Despite being defined as a free democratic country, America remains bothered by the question of color, provoking new discussions in the spheres of education and employment.
Jobs in the United States
Multiple debates are developed to understand how the nature of jobs can be changed. Some people consider the moment when the white population makes up less than half the country as “an object of fascination”, and someone is worried about the offered statistics (Tavernise, 2018). Instead of introducing an attitude toward this change, one should focus on the impact it could have on people and their opportunities. The nation needs qualified technicians and other STEM employees because this shortage is hard to control in such areas as mining, advanced manufacturing, or transportation (Carnevale, Smith, & Melton, 2014).
Despite the intention to attract the attention of native or foreign employees, the U.S. job market experiences challenges in composing the STEM workforce, and demographic realities turn out to be one of the causes (Espinosa et al., 2019). The National Academies of Sciences et al. (2011) develop multiple recommendations to support the idea of a STEM-oriented job market, including undergraduate scholarships for technician students, additional funding, and new tax systems. Therefore, training and skills improvement should be offered at scale for all people.
Racial Gaps and STEM Degrees
Many modern colleges and universities have special departments to promote STEM training and skills. For example, in HBCUs, educational attainment of STEM degrees has been observed. The number of students (underrepresented minorities) with postsecondary education has increased from 39% to 60% (The National Academies of Sciences et al., 2011). People want to develop their talents in these areas and concentrate on the achievements that promote a healthy nation and efficient competition. African Americans and Asians prefer the STEM sphere for their future care in the majority of cases, which results in innovation enhancement and science and engineering progress in the country (The National Academies of Sciences et al., 2011).
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Therefore, it sounds reasonable for academic facilities to introduce new strategies and methods to invite minorities in STEM training (one-third of the institutions with STEM baccalaureate degrees belong to HBCUs) (The National Academies of Sciences et al., 2011). Racial gaps in education should not be a cause for new debates or concerns but a reason for pride and further improvements.
STEM Degrees and GDP Connection
Along with a possibility to meet the interests of the U.S. population, STEM degrees have a positive impact on the country’s economy and the establishment of international relationships. The involvement of students in STEM academic activities prepares young people for the global workforce and contributes to GDP ($75 trillion over the next 80 years) and tax ($5.3 trillion increase) changes (Atkinson, 2019; Morrell, Parker, & Tuvesson, 2015). The STEM workforce shortage depends on the possibility to promote educational equity, protect the interests of a secure nation, and establish a sustainable environment for all citizens, either native or foreign.
HBCUs and Its Impact on National Concerns and STEM Education
There are many options for the U.S. government to solve national concerns, stabilize the country’s economy, and support social development. Tanenbaum (2014) offered to analyze the effectiveness of HBCUs in Black students’ desire to get their STEM degrees. Nowadays, HBCUs estimate only 3% of American higher education institutions (Tanenbaum, 2014). The size of the U.S. STEM workforce continues growing, and people should be able to recognize their needs and reach progress in training and education (Espinosa et al., 2019).
According to the National Academies of Sciences et al. (2011), HBCUs are appropriate for this mission due to “the nurturing, individualized nature of instructions, and the presence of a critical mass of African American students” (p. 156). Multiple minority-serving institutions (MSIs) become solid national resources of STEM education that help students of color deal with obstacles and gain new opportunities (Jackson & Rudin, 2019). Since 2008, the government regularly funds MSIs and STEM programs (Douglas-Gabriel, 2019). Recent changes and achievements prove that effective leadership, properly set goals, and credible resources for STEM education at HBCUs strengthen the nation’s readiness to compete and succeed.
In general, the role of HBCUs in the future STEM workforce cannot be ignored. The promotion of such academic institutions is not only an opportunity to strengthen people’s skills and qualities in the chosen sphere. It is also a great chance for minorities (African Americans, in particular) to prove their rights, make significant contributions to the development of their country, and remove racial biases and gaps. STEM education is not always easy, and not many people are ready to choose it over other available options. Therefore, HBCUs should be defined as remarkable historical facilities, with their current value to discover the nation’s potential, remove STEM difficulties, and support the progress.
Atkinson, R. D. (2019). Why federal R&D policy needs to prioritize productivity to drive growth and reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio. Web.
Carnevale, A. P., Smith, N., & Melton, M. (2014). STEM: Executive summary. Web.
Chappell, B. (2017). Census finds a more diverse America, as Whites lag growth. National Public Radio. Web.
Colby, S. L., & Ortman, J. M. (2014). Projections of the size and composition of the U.S. population: 2014 to 2060. Web.
Douglas-Gabriel, D. (2019). House backs funding for minority-serving colleges, but will the Senate? The Washington Post. Web.
Espinosa, L. L., McGuire, K., & Jackson, L. M. (Eds.). (2019). Minority serving institutions: America’s underutilized resource for strengthening the STEM workforce. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Jackson, L. M., & Rudin, T. (2019). Minority-serving institutions: America’s overlooked STEM asset. Issues in Science and Technology, 35(2), 53-55.
Morrell, C., Parker, C., & Tuvesson, N. (2015). Solving the education equation: A new model for improving STEM workforce outcomes through academic equity. Web.
The National Academies of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. (2011). Minority participation: America’s science and technology talent at the crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
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Tavernise, S. (2018). Why the announcement of a looming white minority makes demographers nervous. The New York Times. Web.
The United States Census Bureau. (2019). Quick Facts: United States. Web.