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Summit Focuses On Growing Diverse STEM Workforce In San Diego

Aired 7/18/13 on KPBS News.

Industry representatives and local college staff look at how to pipe more minority and disadvantaged students into growing STEM fields.

— It is called the "STEM Dilemma" — looking at a mishmash of federal data, you can draw the conclusion that of the roughly 4 million freshmen who enter high school each year, about 6 percent are expected to one day get a college degree in a science, technology or math-related field.

Science Lab

Thursday, Solar Turbines is hosting the San Diego MESA Alliance’s inaugural industry summit, a new push to change this calculus in the San Diego region. Science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM -professionals will brainstorm with local MESA staff.

MESA is a national on-campus group with several local chapters that supports disadvantaged and minority students pursuing STEM degrees.

Local industry is already working with MESA students and doing other outreach, but today’s meeting will focus on what needs to change, according to Rafael Alvarez, the MESA director at San Diego City College.

“When that activity ends, what is left behind to provide that academic support and necessary social integration and opportunities for industry exposure and the like? Typically there’s very little left behind,” he said.

MESA alumni will take part in Thursday's summit, which Alvarez said will look for ways to address an important national issue locally.

There is already a shortage of workers with the skills needed to fill the growing number of STEM-related jobs. Alvarez said getting more disadvantaged and minority students to enter those fields is a necessary part of the solution in a diversifying country.

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