Today, U.S. Representative Jay Inslee (WA-01) introduced H.R. 3703, the Fellowships for Undergraduate Training and Useful Research in Energy-related Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields Act, or FUTURE STEM Act. This act would give opportunities to undergraduate students to expand both the breadth and depth of their education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields in real world research settings like businesses, national labs, community colleges, and universities. This program would help address the need for a skilled STEM workforce in many of our nation's fastest growing industries.
"In our rapidly changing world, innovation equals jobs and economic growth," said Rep. Inslee. "We have a golden opportunity to lead the world in innovation-intensive industries like aerospace, clean energy, advanced manufacturing, and biotechnology if we give our kids the STEM education and training they need to excel and compete for the jobs of the future. The FUTURE STEM Act does exactly that and will simultaneously boost R&D capacity and provide real world workforce development for the next generation of innovators."
Industries that drive Washington state and our nation's economy like heath care, biotechnology, manufacturing, aerospace, transportation, construction, energy efficiency, information technology, and clean technology all need career-ready STEM-trained graduates to remain competitive and cutting-edge. 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 jobs openings are not be 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.
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 ten-week fellowship and be placed in real research settings in community colleges, universities, businesses, and National Laboratories.
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 industries would be eligible to compete to host STEM students in the pilot program. For example, in Washington state, students could be employed at Boeing, Washington State University, Everett Community College, or Edmonds Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), among many others.