Toward a framework for multicultural STEM-Focused career interventions.

Author:Byars-Winston, Angela
Position:Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

Numerous federal and national commissions have called for policies, funds, and initiatives aimed at expanding the nation's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. (STEM) workforce and education investments to create a significantly larger, more diverse talent pool of individuals who pursue technical careers. Career development professionals are poised to contribute to the equity discourse about broadening STEM participation. However, few are aware of STEM-related career development matters, career opportunities and pathways, or strategies for promoting STEM pursuits. The author summarizes STEM education and workforce trends and articulates an equity imperative for broadening and diversiting STEM participation. The author then offers a multicultural STEM-focused career development framework to encourage career development professionals' knowledge and awareness of STEM education and careers .and delineates considerations for practice aimed at increasing the attainment and achievement of diverse groups in STEM fields.

Keywords: career development. STEM, career interventions, underrepresented-minorities

There is an urgent need to improve the educational and career development of individuals to work in science, technology, engineering, and. mathematics (STEM) fields. According to the Brookings Institution, 30% of job openings in the average large metropolitan U.S. city are in STEM fields, but there are too few qualified workers to fill them (Rothwell, 2012). STEM fields are vital to the social and economic condition of the country, contributing innovations that improve living conditions (e.g., health care, clean energy) and accounting for more than hall of the country's .sustained economic growth for the past 50 years (Babco, 2004). Given the societal and economic contributions of STEM fields, it is not surprising that promoting STEM fields and increasing the number of STEM workers are at the forefront of most national policy discussions.

In reports from several federal and national commissions, including Rising Above the Gathering Storm (National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, & Institute of Medicine, 2007), Why So Few? (American Association of University Women [AAUW], 2010), Beyond Bias and Barriers (National Research Council [NRC], 2007), and Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation (NRC, 2011), a clear consensus has emerged regarding what the United States must do to develop and prepare workers for STEM jobs. These commissions, their stakeholders, and the White House have called for new funds and initiatives to expand both the STEM workforce and educational investments to create a larger, more diverse pool of individuals to pursue STEM fields, with attention to increasing racial/ethnic and gender diversity (National Science and Technology Council [NSTC], 2013).

Much of the emphasis and 1-1O-Pe for motivating -individuals toward STEM has been focused on K-12 and postsecondary formal and informal educators, including out-of-school programs to increase STEM participation. Ironically, little has been said or mentioned about the role of career development professionals (CDPs) in the discourse on broadening STEM participation. CDPs are trained to facilitate career-related exploration, preparation and training, and workforce development. However, these professionals may not be aware of the value of promoting STEM opportunities or strategies for doing so.

The purpose of this article is twofold: (a) to increase CDPs' awareness of academic and career trends in STEM and the need for STEM-focused career intervention and (b) to promote culturally relevant interventions aimed at broadening the participation of all groups in STEM. To achieve these purposes, I articulate a multicultural STEM-focused career intervention framework for CDPs to (a) support their knowledge of STEM careers, (b) delineate several relevant skills and practices aimed at increasing STEM access and attainment for culturally diverse groups, and (c) encourage their intentionality in exploring collaborations with STEM stakeholders to facilitate STEM career development opportunities. The first half of the article focuses on the rationale for a multicultural STEM-fficused career development agenda and calls for a paradigm shift toward an equity imperative in STEM talent development. The second half of the article describes the framework's content in three general areas for CDPs to consider: awareness, communication, and skills. Before I present this rationale and framework, it is important to define CDPs and STEM.

Defining CDPs

On the basis ofWhiston and Blustein's (2013) definition, I refer to CDPs as professionals who include doctoral-trained counseling psychologists and counselor educators; master's-trained career counselors, school counselors, mental health counselors, and rehabilitation counselors; and paraprofessionals with training from the National Career Development Association designated as career development facilitators. CDPs have training in theory and research in counseling; career development, human development, and personality development; counseling methods; ethics; and multicultural issues. They work with individuals across the life span at varying career junctures (e.g., exploration, job entry, advancement) and are, therefore, positioned to contribute to the goal of building a diverse STEM workforce.

Defining STEM

No standard definition exists of what constitutes a STEM job. All definitions include the jobs engaged with research and development (R&D)--the workforce sector directly producing new technologies. and scientific discoveries. Although there are some exceptions, health care, social science, business, and technical support professions outside the fields of engineering., mathematics and computer science, and the physical and life sciences are generally excluded as STEM fields.

The U.S. Department of Commerce recently defined STEM jobs, listing 50 occupations that include professional and technical support occupations in four categories: computer sciences and mathematics (e.g., systems analyst, statistician); engineering and surveying (e.g., biomedical and materials engineers); physical, life, and geosciences (e.g., chemist, environmental and medical scientists); and STEM managerial occupations (e.g.., engineering and natural sciences managers; Langdon, McKittrick, Beede, Kahn, & Doms, 2011). Another definition by Carnevale, Smith, and Melton (2011) included technicians and clustered STEM occupations into five major subcategories: computer occupations; engineers and engineering technicians; mathematical science occupations; life and physical science occupations; and architects, surveyors, and technicians. Detailed descriptions of STEM occupations and job titles can also be found on the 0*NET (Occupational Information Network) website (www.onetonline. org; select "Find Occupations," then select "STEM Discipline").

The Need for Multicultural STEM Career Development

On October 4, 1957, the former Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite called Sputnik. That historical moment was transformed into a movement that led the United States to create the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) by July 1958 and pass the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) in September 1958 (Garber & Launius, 2005). The NDEA provided funding for scientific research, to educational institutions across all levels (primary through postsecondary schools), infusing American schools with a new emphasis on science and technology, and, established counseling and guidance training institutes to train counselors to identify and steer individuals toward college STEM majors (Jolly, 2009). Responding to what he called "our generation's Sputnik moment" (White House, 2011, para. 26), President Barack Obama began the Educate to Innovate initiative in 2009 to improve the nation's participation in STEM education and careers, particularly for youth and for groups underrepresented in STEM, such as women and racial/ethnic minorities (White House, n.d.). The initiative includes efforts such as after-school STEM programs; STEM AmeriCorps volunteers to mentor others into STEM; and the improvement of postsecondary STEM education, with an emphasis on diverse pathways to STEM degrees.

Three perspectives- generally capture the present need for a STEM-competent, culturally diverse workforce and warrant CDPs' focus on multicultural STEM career development. First, from a labor market perspective, job growth in STEM fields is expected to be high: 17% compared with 10% for total job growth in the labor market with more than 2 million job openings forecasted between the years 2008 and 2018. (Carnevale et al., 2011; Langdon et al., 2011). Second, from a demographic perspective, women, racial/ethnic minorities, and older individuals are increasing their share of the labor force (Toossi, 2012). However, women and racial/ethnic minorities, including African Americans, Latinos/as, and Native Americans, are grossly underrepresented in STEM, particularly in specialized fields such as biomedical research and computer science (Froeschle & Normington, 2010). Women and racial/ethnic minorities hold less than 25% and 9% of STEM jobs requiring a college education, respectively, and are thus considered underrepresented minorities in STEM occupations (Beede et al., 2011; NRC, 2011). A group is considered to be underrepresented when its numbers in a given field are disproportionately lower than its numbers in the general population. For instance, Latinos/as are 16% of the U.S. population and 16% of the total workforce, but they compose only 6% of the STEM workforce (Carnevale et al., 2011; Ennis, Rios-Vargas, & Albert, 2011). Underrepresentation is not a problem in itself. If the world of work was a level field such that individuals could make an occupational choice on the basis of their interests or skills, then each...

To continue reading