11/27/2012 02:37 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2013

US at Critical Juncture as Global Technology Leader

This is a critical time for our nation. While 30 years ago American corporations competed with each other, today's competition is on a global scale. Since the Second World War, the United States has enjoyed a privileged position of global leadership in technology and innovation. However, corporations today wishing to secure their status as leaders in research and development, must confront the reality that the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) talent sources, critical for maintaining their preeminence, are changing.

New and creative approaches will be required to ensure an adequate talent pool in the future. The country needs to work aggressively and collectively to cultivate its domestic STEM talent pool in order to remain a global leader.

At NACME, we believe that in order to close this gap, more must be done to substantially increase the number of underrepresented minorities pursuing college degrees in the STEM fields. Consider that underrepresented minorities account for only 13 percent of new engineers each year, yet account for 34 percent of all 18- to 24-year-olds. This statistic alone is why greater emphasis must be placed on increasing opportunities and improving performance for these students in STEM studies.

The relative absence of African Americans, American Indians, and Latinos in STEM study and careers, and the critical need for the U.S. to reverse this situation to better compete globally, is what NACME refers to as the "New" American Dilemma.

So what does this mean to corporate America and what can be done to move the needle on the national jobs crisis?

Corporations are directly impacted by our country's diminished capacity to provide workers adequately trained in the STEM fields. They also have a wide range of resources available that can be used to help find and train the next generation of innovative leaders. By putting in place the appropriate funding and programs that provide STEM education and training for our underserved talent pool, we can ensure that we will have the intellectual capital to reclaim and secure our nation's position as the world's strongest economy and source of innovation.

A key to how this can be accomplished lies in a model that has existed since the Roman Empire -- the public-private partnership (PPP).

Currently, the government is at odds over the national budget, and educational systems are stretched as far as possible. In response, the government, corporations and nonprofits have started joining together to form innovative public-private partnerships. These PPPs are driving initiatives across the country to recruit/train teachers, spur curriculum improvements, and increase the ranks of students studying STEM from grade school to graduate school. PPPs are viable because they are mutually beneficial for government and the private sector.

Over the decades, NACME has learned that increasing underrepresented minority participation in STEM study requires a multifaceted strategy: scholarship support is critical along with a comprehensive engineering student support strategy. Through our partnerships with colleges and universities around the country, we support STEM students with mentoring, peer tutoring, internship experiences, supplemental instruction, and bridge programs that improve students' preparation for prerequisite mathematics and science courses prior to enrolling. This is the kind of training continuum that must be included in all federal plans for increasing the STEM workforce.

Increasing diversity in STEM opens the doors for new approaches to solving problems and allows for new ways of thinking and therefore, the potential for greatness. NACAME believes that diversity drives innovation and its absence imperils our designs, our products, and most of all, our creativity -- all components of competitiveness.

Given the tremendous progress in technology and innovation that is taking place in developing countries, the shortcomings of our public education systems, and the historic underrepresentation of sizable elements of our population, we must all take immediate action to ensure a future of prosperity and security by fostering talented individuals in the STEM fields.