White House Report on Scientific, Technical, and Engineering
"If current trends persist, our nation may begin to fall far
short of the talent needed to spur the innovation process that
has given America such a strong economy and high quality of
It is well recognized that America's prosperity is due in large measure to its technological prowess. A White House report warns that this might not continue without stronger programs to augment the nation's science, technology, and engineering workforce.
"Ensuring a Strong U.S. Scientific, Technical, and Engineering Workforce in the 21st Century" was prepared by the National Science and Technology Council. The 34-page report was a year in the making, and was released in April. It is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/WH/EOP/OSTP/html/workforcerpt.pdf or workforcerpt.html.
Lane's cover letter in the report states, "The principal conclusion is that it is imperative that members of all ethnic and gender groups participate at increasing rates if a strong ST&E workforce is to be ensured." There are two major reason for this. One is demographic: projections indicate that non-Hispanic white males, which are a large proportion of the U.S. scientific and engineering workforce, will decline significantly as a percentage of the total American population, while the proportion of African-Americans and Hispanics in the U.S. population will increase. Also worrisome is fierce international competition for high-technology workers who currently reduce employment shortages in U.S. industry. Lane concludes, "we will have to do a much better job of growing our own talent."
There are four major conclusions in the report, all of which pertain to the federal government:
"Federal agencies should critically evaluate how the wide range of programs they support can enlarge the ST&E talent pool by encouraging greater participation of all ethnic and gender groups. Particular emphasis should be given to women, minorities, and persons with disabilities who are under-represented in the ST&E workforce."
"Federal agencies should continue to support research on barriers to full participation of under-represented ethnic and gender groups. The federal government should take the lead in fully understanding the dimensions of the ST&E human resources challenge and in raising the results of research to the attention of all stakeholders to promote future action."
"Federal agencies should emphasize recruitment and retention of qualified individuals from ethnic and gender groups that are currently under-represented in the ST&E workforce and vigorously pursue professional development opportunities for those already in the federal workforce."
"The Federal Government should establish and oversee the maintenance of an Internet site that provides information on ST&E workforce-related programs."
The shortage of trained workers in the photonics industry will be addressed at a seminar on June 19 in Washington. Organized by the Coalition for Photonics and Optics, which includes the Optical Society of America and the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), the seminar will include a presentation by Duncan Moore of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Information on the seminar can be found at http://www.cpo-optics.org/CPO_Seminar.pdf
Richard M. Jones