Giving Students the Gift of a Prosperous Professional Future

Boy (7-9) raising hand in class, rear view
Boy (7-9) raising hand in class, rear view

This week, Americans all across the country will be participating in
National Volunteer Week. So now is precisely the time to ask ourselves how
we can best donate our time and talents.

Of course, there is no shortage of worthy causes. But one area where
volunteer work is particularly impactful is educational programs that help
young Americans develop an interest in science, technology, engineering and
math -- the so-called "STEM" fields. Developing proficiency in these
subjects can set students up for a career in some of the nation's most
promising industries.

Even during this period of high unemployment, the demand for qualified STEM
workers vastly outpaces supply. A recent report from the non-profit Change
the Equation found that, in the broader economy, unemployed Americans
outnumber job postings by three to one. However, for STEM professions, there
are about two open jobs per jobless American.

The demand for well-trained professionals in fields such as biotechnology,
aerospace, and software development won't wane anytime soon. A recent report
from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology found
that for the United States to remain a dominant force in science-based
industries, we will need to produce roughly 1 million more STEM
professionals over the next decade.

Achieving this goal starts with motivating young Americans to pursue STEM
degrees. Today, a mere 300,000 Americans earn a bachelor or associate degree
in a STEM subject each year. More troubling still, only 40 percent of
students who intend to major in one of these areas actually completes a

Students who end up pursuing a STEM education often developed an interest in
science and technology at an early age. A single formative experience can
provide a lifetime's worth of motivation. That's why helping young Americans
discover their passion for these subjects is such a worthwhile volunteer

Executives in technology and science-driven industries have an enormous role
to play in sparking an early enthusiasm for STEM subjects.

Already, some industry leaders are doing their part to generate STEM
excitement in our schools.

For example, tech giant Google uses its talented workforce to help spark
student interest in science. In collaboration with the Citizen Schools
initiative, Google volunteers have participated in 139 apprenticeship
courses. These educational programs expose middle school students to
technical subjects like software engineering and robotics. Students in these
courses receive hands-on instruction from some of the most talented minds in
the tech world.

Last year, Altria gave a sizeable donation to the Thurgood Marshall College
Fund to help new middle school teachers learn hands-on approaches to making
math and science instruction interesting, relevant and fun.

Here at Raytheon, we have a rich culture of STEM-related philanthropy. For instance, firm employees give their time to initiatives like MATHCOUNTS, which inspires interest in math among middle school students through competitions, clubs, and other enrichment programs.

Volunteerism is strongly encouraged at Raytheon. In fact, during 2011 and
2012, company employees donated nearly 400,000 hours to serving their

The emphasis we place on volunteerism is in line with a broader national
trend. In 2011, the number of American volunteers reached a five-year high
of 6.4 million. And more than 18 percent of those volunteers spent their
time teaching or tutoring.

These efforts to encourage student achievement in the STEM fields are
extremely important when it comes to preparing young Americans for the jobs
of tomorrow. If the United States is going to produce the kind of qualified
professionals that the job market demands, industry leaders must continue to
donate their time to cultivating STEM passions in local student bodies.

National Volunteer Week is the perfect opportunity to redouble our efforts
to improve the lives of young Americans and set them on a path to
professional success.