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Friday, February 21, 2020

Closing Technology Labor Gaps with Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act

Congress recently passed the Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act and it will likely have an impact on available talent for the science and technology fields as well future university focus. The bill tries to help veterans find new technology and science training opportunities in fast growing and high paying careers. As the economy shifts to an Information Age a need to fuel innovating industries with updated and life long learning opportunities emerges.

What does the bill do?

The bill seeks to gap fill some of the shortages of STEM qualified people in the workforce by promoting and encouraging STEM study among veterans.

Why was it needed?

The technology industry is dying for talented employees and scientists to help push their industries forward. Considering the shortage of such workers in the U.S. and the heavy reliance on recruiting from overseas it makes sense to give veterans new skills to fill these holes. Its connecting a need and resource in the market (low levels of available talent and high quality potential candidates).

Veterans in STEM Careers Act indicates, "U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 
employment in occupations related to STEM was projected to grow 
to more than 10 million between 2016 and 2026.\1\ In addition, 
in the next 5 years, between 1 million and 1.5 million members 
of the U.S. Armed Forces will leave the military, according to 
the Department of Defense. By a large margin, veterans cite 
finding employment as their most important need when returning 
home."

Taking a fairly large block of people who are transitioning into jobs and helping them blossom makes sense. They are prime for retraining and putting to use their knowledge and skills for national growth. There are new and emerging technologies in artificial intelligence, military capabilities, data security, cyber warfare, technology industries and much more. The broad based applicability of such knowledge is helpful in maintaining national competitive advantages and shoring up those areas that are weak.

and it intends to.....

Address the participation of veterans in STEM 
        fields, including by making veterans eligible for 
        certain NSF programs.
   Direct NSF to (1) encourage veterans to study and 
        pursue careers in STEM and computer science in 
        coordination with other Federal agencies that serve 
        veterans, and (2) submit a plan to Congress for 
        enhancing veterans outreach.
   Require the National Science Board to provide in its 
        biennial report on indicators of the state of science 
        and engineering in the United States any available and 
        relevant data on veterans in science and engineering 
        careers or education programs.
   Require NSF to consider the ability of an 
        institution of higher education to recruit veterans in 
        those institutions' applications to participate in the 
        Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, NSF 
        fellowships and masters fellowships for mathematics and 
        science teachers, computer and network security 
        capacity building grants, and traineeship grants 
        leading to a doctorate degree in computer and network 
        security research.
   Establish or designate a working group in the Office 
        of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to coordinate 
        and develop Federal programs and policies for 
        transitioning and training veterans and military 
        spouses for STEM careers.
   Direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to 
        conduct a study on the academic success rates of 
        student veterans pursuing STEM degrees and barriers 
        faced by such students in that pursuit.

You can see from the bill there is an attempt to push up sciences in general as well as encourage science academics to produce worthwhile outcomes. In addition, there is additional emphasis on supporting Doctorates in these fields (U.S. has current shortage). Much of the bill also begins to collect and consolidate information and willful coordination among the actors that recruit, teach, and employ veterans. At its core it formalizes a path that improves the market through helping veterans improve their market position and quality of life.

Serving one's nation can be done in many ways. Military veterans have already shown they are willing to put themselves in harm's way to protect their nation and her ideals. They are equally likely to take up new career training and education opportunities that lead to greater employability down the road. The market is changing and the need to encourage adaptations in the labor pool is also needed to meet the needs of a Data Era.

Universities might also want to consider their responsibility in preparing graduates to take on new fields. It isn't only about getting them a degree and pushing them out into industry. Those days have changed. Institutions of higher learning will need to consider how to continue to serve their stakeholders by helping students become life long learners that come back over and over to update their abilities. The bill may help veterans specifically but also can influence the place STEM has in university programs.

SUPPORTING VETERANS IN STEM CAREERS ACT; Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 17
https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/425/text


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