of the National Defense Industrial Association
and Susan Lavrakas of the Aerospace Industries
of science, technology, engineering and math grads lagging demand
Civic CaucusFocus on CompetitivenessInterview June 21, 2013
Dave Broden, Amir Gharbi, Paul Gilje (coordinator), Sallie Kemper,
Paul Ostrow, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter. By phone: Audrey
Clay, Janis Clay, Rebecca Danahy, Susan Lavrakas, Dan Loritz (chair),
Summary of Discussion:
Edward Swallow, chair of the board of the
National Defense Industrial Association's (NDIA's) Science, Technology
Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce Division, says there is a
supply-chain problem in the United States for producing college
graduates with STEM degrees. He and Susan Lavrakas, director of
workforce at the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), say the
problem starts in elementary school, continues through middle school
and high school and on into college. Decisions made by students,
parents, teachers and guidance counselors as early as fifth grade can
affect students' opportunities to pursue STEM studies and careers.
Lavrakas and Swallow
say that a national policy on STEM workforce
issues would be helpful, but that the real progress will take place at
the local and state levels. Swallow offers examples of successful
local models of approaching STEM training issues, including a
low-performing high school in the Chicago area that was turned around
after conversion to a STEM school.
Swallow says that attracting and retaining
high-quality K-12 STEM teachers requires professional development and
differential pay for STEM teachers, a concept opposed by teachers
unions. He believes charter schools have a STEM advantage over
traditional schools because they can use the more effective
project-based learning and integrative learning styles.
Swallow notes that the University of
Minnesota must better partner its research with business to help
create jobs and must focus on attracting STEM students from outside
the state who will stay in Minnesota after graduating.
Edward Swallow is vice president,
business development, for the federal and defense technologies
division of Northrop Grumman's Information Systems sector. Swallow
previously worked for SM&A, Space Applications Corporation and Logicon
Corporation. He is a retired Air Force Reserve officer and was the Air
Force Academy admissions liaison officer director for the Washington,
D.C., area. He is chair of the board of the National Defense
Industrial Association's (NDIA's) Science, Technology Engineering and
Mathematics Workforce Division.
Swallow has a bachelor's degree in physics
and astronomy from State University of New York, College-Oneonta, and
received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Air Force
ROTC at Syracuse University. He has a master's degree in systems
management from the University of Southern California.
Susan Lavrakas is director of workforce
at the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA). She joined AIA in 2011
to focus her efforts on STEM education and workforce development
issues. She has enjoyed a 40-year professional career in national
security affairs. Having studied political science and international
affairs, she started her career at the Central Intelligence Agency.
She conducted research at the RAND Corporation and then joined the
defense industry at Northrop Grumman Corporation, where she worked for
nearly two decades. From 2003 to 2011, she worked in government
relations at BAE Systems. She served as vice president for legislative
liaison of the STEM Workforce Division of the National Defense
Lavrakas was born in Minneapolis and is a
White Bear Lake High School graduate. She received her bachelor's
degree from Hamline University in St. Paul and did graduate studies at
the University of Southern California.
There is a mismatch between the competencies
of high school graduates and the needs both of colleges for students
to be college-ready and of employers for them to be work-ready.
Edward Swallow, chair of the board of the National Defense Industrial
Association's (NDIA's) Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics
(STEM) Workforce Division, said that over the past 20 to 25 years,
there has been a supply-chain problem in the United States for
producing college graduates with STEM degrees.
He described several problems in the supply
chain of STEM graduates:
In 2001, there were four million students in ninth
grade. Only 2.8 million students graduated from high school in
Only 32 percent of those 2001 ninth graders were
proficient in science and/or math.
Among the 2005 high school graduates, 42 percent were
proficient in science and math, but only 17 percent of the
graduates were proficient and interested in STEM studies beyond
high school. Fifteen percent were interested, but not proficient,
and 42 percent were neither proficient nor interested.
In 2005, 1.2 million students enrolled in four-year
colleges. Of those, 278,000 chose a STEM major. In 2011, only
167,000 graduated with a STEM degree.
Fewer than 80,000 of the STEM graduates were able to
get a security clearance. The biggest reason is that many of the
graduates are not U.S. citizens.
The "old school" solution, when you have a
problem with a supply chain, is to find a different supplier.
Swallow said manufacturing jobs went overseas, engineering centers
went overseas and, more recently, companies sent their R&D centers
overseas, because companies were in search of a different supply chain
for their STEM talent.
Alternatively, the "new school" solution is
to find the faults in the supply chain and fix them. According to
Swallow, when looking at how to fix the U.S. STEM supply chain, NDIA
discovered several things:
Eighth-grade algebra is critical in order to graduate
with a STEM degree in four years. If students do not have
eighth-grade algebra, there is a natural tendency for them to get
off the STEM track.
Decisions are made in fifth grade by students stating
their preferences and by teachers, guidance counselors and parents
determining how proficient and interested a student is in math.
That will determine whether to put a student into the college
track, the Advanced Placement track, the "let's just get them
graduated" track or into a remedial track. So, fifth grade becomes
key, which is why the NDIA has focused a lot of effort on K-12
Minnesota hires a lot of high-tech
employees, but does not produce them. Minnesota is in the in the
first quartile of states in high-tech jobs, but in the third quartile
of STEM degrees conferred by states. "That makes Minnesota a ripe
state for a dialogue about how to increase STEM education and STEM
graduation," Swallow said.
He mentioned several important factors:
Professional development of teachers;
Getting kids excited about science and math early on;
Having meaningful STEM experiences throughout
students' K-12 careers;
Advertising and helping kids understand the jobs
available in STEM and what a STEM degree means in terms of
The supply-chain model highlights the fact that this is a
systemic problem that takes an all-hands-on-deck approach. Susan
Lavrakas, director of workforce at the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA),
said all the various stakeholders must be engaged. She said AIA and NDIA
have been partners for more than six years to see if they can have an
impact, not only at the national level, but also at the state and local
levels. They work with local NDIA chapters to convene meetings around the
country to advance STEM education and workforce development.
"We estimate that AIA member companies are spending $150 million a year on
STEM education and they have been doing so for decades," Lavrakas said.
"If we've been investing all that money, why do we still have a problem?"
"It hasn't been systemic," she continued."It hasn't been collaborative. In
many cases the money was given to make companies look good or to make
people feel good, but it wasn't intentionally geared toward workforce
The aerospace industry is trying to address the STEM workforce issue:
AIA member companies are working together, in partnership
with NDIA and others, to scope the magnitude and nature of the
workforce challenge in the aerospace and defense industry. They are
partnered with Aviation Week to conduct an annual study of the
aerospace and defense workforce.
In past years, AIA established a Workforce Committee and
a more senior Workforce Steering Committee, and is about to elevate
the latter to a Workforce Council.
"We can't wait for the federal government to solve this
problem," Lavrakas said. "The most positive work is taking place
between businesses and educators at the state and local levels. Until
recently, most educators didn't know what the business community
needed their students to be prepared to do in the workforce."
Lavrakas said some of AIA's member companies have
partnered with community colleges in their areas to develop specific
training programs tailored to their own immediate workforce needs. She
offered the example of the Boeing Company working with 180 Skills in
Indiana to develop a specific curriculum for assembly workers they
needed and couldn't find. They planted that curriculum in Edmonds
Community College in Washington State and guaranteed any graduates an
interview at Boeing. Ninety percent of the people who go through the
program graduate and get the credentials; 90 percent of those
proceeded to an interview with Boeing; and 88 percent of those have
been hired. "That's an example of a company taking matters into their
own hands, because the system is just not providing what they need,"
Through the Business-Higher Education Forum, Lavrakas
noted, some of AIA's biggest member companies have developed
partnerships between institutions of higher education and specific
corporations to grow a workforce in a particular region in the
country. For example, Northrop Grumman is partnered with the
University of Maryland system to develop cyber security experts.
She explained that AIA runs its own STEM program, the
Team America Rocketry Challenge. The largest student rocket
competition in the world, the program has involved 60,000 students
since its inception 11 years ago. It helps excite kids about STEM
studies and careers and gets them involved with mentors very early on,
in middle school and high school. "They get exposed to what people in
these fields do and what kind of education and skills they need to
have," Lavrakas said.
A national STEM strategy is helpful, but it
takes local action to address specific workforce mismatches. In
response to a question, Swallow said AIA and NDIA have determined that "a
national STEM strategy is a good thing, a national policy is a good thing,
but it takes local action to determine what the challenge is in a
"The policy has to emanate and engage from a
dialogue between the employers in the area, the school district in the
area, higher education institutions in that area and parents," he said.
"They must all be engaged in the dialogue to determine where the specific
mismatches are that need to be addressed."
Ten years ago, Northrop Grumman decided to do
something about the lack of diversity in its technology workforce. "We
put computer labs in some elementary schools and reached out to high
schools and community colleges," Swallow noted. The company helped expand
Project Lead the Way (which provides engaging, hands-on STEM curriculum)
in high schools, so kids could graduate with manufacturing skills.
"We have almost tripled our Hispanic workforce
and quadrupled our African American workforce hired directly at one
location in just four years," he noted. "We can fill all our entry level
positions straight out of high school or community college. That's for
very sophisticated manufacturing, very high tech jobs. Our hiring costs
have gone down and we're seeing a return on our investment."
Wheeling High School near Chicago is another
example of an effective local model, where the principal took the
initiative to turn the school into a STEM school. Wheeling High School
is a Title I school, with 65 percent of the students eligible for free or
reduced lunch. It's an 80 percent minority school. According to Swallow,
the principal of the school decided that his graduation rate of 45 percent
and his post-employment rate of less than 30 percent were not acceptable.
He talked to employers in the area, who said they weren't hiring his
graduates because they couldn't read or write and they didn't have enough
math skills to perform at the basic performance level.
He turned the school into a STEM school. He
brought in Project Lead the Way, put in computer-integrated manufacturing
and brought in accelerated manufacturing skills certification. The
graduation rate has gone from 45 percent to 85 percent in five years. The
post-high school employment rate has moved from 30 percent to 75 percent.
Those higher rates have held over the last three years.
In 2011, 100 percent of Wheeling graduates who
had two or more manufacturing skill certifications were employed within
two weeks of graduation, at an average salary of $32,000. In 2012, all
kids with two or more certifications had jobs to go to the day after
Aptitude and attitude are the two deciding factors in
going to college. An interviewer said that
many programs and schools emphasize that every
kid should go to college. "There are some politics involved in encouraging
folks to go right from high school into the jobs you're talking about," he
said. "How do you overcome the old-school bias about going to college?"
Swallow said there are two deciding factors
about going to college: aptitude and attitude. Society and culture play a
great role on the attitude side. "We need better career counselors
starting in middle school to identify kids who have the aptitude and
attitude to go to college," he said."Then find the kids who have the
aptitude and attitude for a two-year degree and for going into a
profession where an associate degree is appropriate. Then find the people
with the aptitude and attitude to go into the manufacturing workforce."
"The critical part of it is to start engaging at
the middle school level and start opening the students' eyes to the full
range of possibilities," he said. "Forcing everybody to go to college is
the number one reason for dropouts. Students think that's never going to
happen to them, so why bother?"
Attracting and keeping qualified, talented STEM
teachers in schools requires professional development and differential
pay. Teacher professional development is a critical conversation at
the state and national level, Swallow said, in response to a question. A
very successful strategy at the state level, he said, is using master
teachers, people who have degrees in chemistry, physics, mathematics, to
act as resources to the mainline teachers at all levels of schools.
Bringing practicing STEM people into the classrooms can be effective, but
it doesn't necessarily raise the skills of teachers.
Good math teachers who are also good
mathematicians have lots of options, so they should get differential pay,
Swallow argued. People who have a degree in math and are in the top 10
percent of their class are almost guaranteed to get a job in financial
services, starting at $65,000. A math teacher is lucky to get $40,000.
"That raises the subject of differential pay, the concept of a
market-based pay system," Swallow said. "But teachers unions are the
biggest challenge on differential pay. They want teachers to all get paid
the same amount, based on seniority."
The University of Minnesota could learn from the
examples of universities in Maryland, the District of Columbia and
Virginia. In response to a question about how Minnesota can develop
more STEM-trained people, Swallow said Maryland, the District of Columbia
and Virginia all have very high STEM employment and high STEM graduation
The District of Columbia has three major
universities, all of which have engineering schools. Maryland has six
major public universities with engineering schools. Two of the premier
research universities are in Maryland. The Virginia state university
system has 14 engineering colleges or universities. Three of the largest
ones, George Mason, James Madison and Virginia Tech, have applied research
institutes that partner on research with industry to create jobs.
"You have to look to the University of Minnesota
system and determine how to make a stronger university focus on building
business and also on attracting STEM students from outside the state at
the undergraduate and graduate levels to come to Minnesota and stay
He cited the example of Virginia Tech
University, which has its own industry advisory board. The board helps
plan out the curriculum and helps shape it to meet the needs of industry.
Charter schools using project-based learning and
integrative learning have a STEM advantage over traditional schools.
An interviewer asked if charter schools have any advantage with STEM
compared to traditional schools. Swallow responded that charter schools
have more flexibility, because they don't have to teach along strict
subject lines. Many charter schools have gone to project-based learning
and integrative learning.
He said studies have shown that integrative
learning and project-based learning are significantly more effective than
traditional classroom learning. He gave the following statistics: If you
read something, you retain about 10 percent of it. If you hear something,
you retain about 20 percent. If you read and hear something, you retain
about 40 percent. If you read, hear and do something with it or about it,
you retain about 85 percent. "That's why project-based learning is so
powerful, because you get the long-term retention," he said. "Kids
remember what they did, not what they heard. Until we can break the
stranglehold in curriculum on subject-based learning, charter schools will
have an advantage," he said.
The long-term health of the U.S. economy is
built on our ability to manufacture. Swallow is concerned that our
economy is becoming more and more focused on STEM guest workers. "We need
to get more manufacturing back on shore and we need to get more of our
kids involved in science and engineering," he said. We have graduated all
the lawyers we'll need for the next 150 years. Lots of research at law
firms is now automated. We don't need lawyers and accountants now. We need
more scientists and engineers to create more products that we can sell to
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. The Core participants
include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and
business. Click here
to see a short personal background of each.
David Broden, Janis Clay, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,
Jan Hively, Dan Loritz (Chair), Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky,
Tim McDonald, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Wayne Popham and