Currently, Latinos comprise close to 53 % of the K-12 student population in California with a stabilization over the next 10 years of about 58%, this is more than half of the student population. There needs to be a paradigm shift in the Latino community and the K-12 system in order to have the California maintain its current level of standard of living. As the Jobs Council says, we need to change the US educational system from K-12 to higher learning to accommodate that change in demographics. This conference is the launching point for Latino STEM development in the Sacramento Area.
According to the Jobs Council "American education and professional training today are not where we need to be to thrive in an increasingly competitive global arena. As the skills required by our workforce grow in complexity, America is losing its position of global educational leadership in ways that could put our future living standards and business competitiveness at risk." The council says that:
There are 3.3 million job openings in the US, many going unfilled for months on end, as roughly half of employers now say they're having a hard time finding qualified workers to hire.
The gap between employer needs and workforce skills is starkest in the critical areas of STEM education, as technical skills become increasingly important in the workforce.
Projections indicate that by 2020 we will have 1.5 million too few college graduates in STEM related fields.
On September 26, 2015 the Latino Stem Association and the University of California at Davis conducted a one day conference. All schools within a thirty mile radius of UCD were invited to send their most promising Latino students to the conference. More than 200 students responded and attended, including some from outside of our recruitment area. Going as far west as Oakland, south as Modesto and north to Chico.
The conference consisted of presentations by persons in various aspects of STEM including medicine, robotics, Hydrology, energy, technology and other sciences. More than 200 students, many of them first generation immigrant children from all over Northern California attended the all day conference.
Keynote speakers included Catherine Sandoval, Commissioner, California Public Utilities Commission; Chris Cruz, Chief Deputy, California Technology Agency; Timo Rico, Director of Student Services, UCD; and, Rahim Reed, Vice Provost, UCD.
The conference was conducted in such a manner that the stakeholders (students, parents, and professionals) were provided a rich interactive learning environment. One where the participants engaged in hands-on learning/teaching/mentoring for Latino students, including "Dreamer" students who are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). the entire conference was organized and directed by current members of CALESS, the on-campus Latino engineering student organization and members of the Sacramento State University and Stanford University.
Our vision for the outcome of the conference was that attendees come away with a richer understanding of the opportunities in the STEM fields and the steps it takes to achieve their personal dreams. We hoped to inculcate in students an appreciation for higher learning and that they are not alone in their desire to achieve their dreams. That there are capable persons who have a deep understanding of where they came from and where they are going who are willing to help them achieve their dreams. To help these students, LSA engaged the entire university, including relevant campus Latino organizations, administrative and learning schools available at UC Davis; by engaging high schools, junior colleges and other institutions of higher learning in the Sacramento area and beyond; and, by engaging Latino and non-Latino professionals willing to help Latino students. We believe that we exceeded our expectations.