Tech Leaders Promote Math/Science Education

Business, government and education leaders say schools must emphasize math and science to ensure that the pipeline of engineers doesn't dry up.

Several prominent execs say without a concerted effort by business, political and educational leaders, Massachusetts won't have enough engineers to fill jobs in the future.

The words of caution come in response to a new study from the Engineering in Massachusetts Collaborative (EiMC), a statewide public-private partnership led by Krishna Vedula, Dean of the College of Engineering, UMass Lowell.

EiMC's research and policy paper, "Fueling the Pipeline: Attracting and Educating Math and Science Students," will be discussed tomorrow at a forum at EMC's Hopkinton, Mass., headquarters. The data storage giant is an EiMC sponsor and one of the state's 20 largest employers.

"We in industry and state government and higher education are committing to an agenda that will improve math and science education and ensure that all of us are held accountable for delivering measurable results," said Mike Ruettgers, EMC's executive chairman.

Greg Eden, an EMC spokesman, said the company employs about 3,000 of its 17,000 worldwide employees are engineers. Of those, about 3 in 4 work on software.

"We have reduced our total workforce during the past two years," Eden said. "At the same time we have bulked up in the the growing areas of our businesss, specifically storage management software and storage-related professional services."

Still, the company has used foreign workers through the H1B visa program, Eden said.

One of EiMC's worrisome findings is that the number students earning scientific, engineering and IT udergraduate degrees at New England schools declined in the 1990s.

So should be done to reverse the trend? The group, which will meet with Gov. Mitt Romney tomorrow, is encouraging companies to work with local schools and higher education to provide K-12 math and science teachers with professional development opportunities. EMC today also announced a training program for elementary school math and science teachers.

In addition, the group will advocate for: promoting statewide awareness of local best practices and take steps to expand the pool of qualified math teachers; and fully fund federal support for state-led efforts to improve math and science education.

Editor's note: EiMC's complete report will be available at EMC's Web site tomorrow.

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