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Fellowships for Undergraduate Training and Useful Research in Energy-Related Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fields Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

* Mr. INSLEE. Mr. Speaker, today I introduced the FUTURE STEM Act. This legislation will give undergraduate students opportunities to expand both the breadth and depth of their education in multidisciplinary science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields in real world research settings from National Labs to businesses. An American workforce that is highly skilled in STEM fields is necessary for the United States' economic competitiveness and job creation in innovative industries.

* Industries that drive Washington state and our nation's economy, such as health care, biotechnology, information technology, manufacturing, aerospace, transportation, construction, and energy efficiency and clean technology, all need career-ready STEM-trained graduates to remain competitive and cutting-edge. In fact, workforce projections for 2014 by the U.S. Department of Labor show that 15 of the 20 fastest growing occupations require significant science or mathematics training to successfully compete for a job. Yet, despite our high unemployment rate, the U.S. is falling behind in STEM graduates and many of these job openings are not being filled by American workers. The U.S. Department of Education reports that America now ranks 20th internationally in our share of graduate degrees awarded in engineering, computer science, and mathematics.

* We need focused programs to ensure that the next generation of high-tech workers is prepared to enter the strongest STEM-related industries in Washington state and across the nation. The FUTURE STEM Act seeks to address these problems by exposing students to STEM fields as undergraduates, getting young people early experience in professional settings.

* The FUTURE STEM Act establishes a pilot undergraduate student fellowship program to award competitive grants to partner institutions to provide student work experience that will overall improve education and training in support of STEM fields. Under the grants, students will engage in a 10-week fellowship and be placed in real research settings at community colleges, universities, businesses, National Laboratories, and other research settings. The fellowships will pay $4,500 to the student for a ten-week project, plus up to $2,000 reimbursement for housing and travel expenses. An additional $3,500 per project is reserved for equipment, instrumentation, and other educational and training materials needed for the project; supporting outreach efforts to recruit students; encouraging collaboration between government, industry, and academic partners; and assessing the activities funded under the Act. These allowances are on par with existing fellowship programs.

* Industries such as aerospace, solar power, and advanced biofuels would be eligible to compete to host STEM students in the pilot program. In Washington state, students could be employed at Boeing, Washington State University, Everett Community College, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), or at countless other locations. PNNL's Energy and Environment Division currently employs some undergraduate and community college students as interns and I am told that they would be eager to employ more under the program created by this Act.

* All of America's students deserve the opportunity to pursue a STEM career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM fields are expected to add 2.7 million new jobs by 2018, yet women and minorities are vastly underrepresented in those fields. In a survey of female and minority chemists and chemical engineers, 77 percent said significant numbers of women and minorities are missing from the U.S. STEM workforce because ``they were not identified, encouraged or nurtured to pursue STEM studies early on.'' For that reason, this legislation will give preference to students from groups that have been historically underrepresented in STEM fields.

* It is crucial that we support, promote, and encourage students to pursue pathways toward careers in STEM fields. The FUTURE STEM Act will facilitate an overall improvement in STEM education and help prepare our nation's students for a high-tech future, while helping to maintain and improve our global excellence in science and technology. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation, which will help to ensure America has the high-skilled STEM workforce that is necessary to increase our global competitiveness.

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