The U.S. News STEM Solutions National Leadership Conference took place in San Diego May 24–26 at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina. SDWP participated in the plenary and one of the breakout sessions.
On day one of the conference, SDWP CEO Peter Callstrom welcomed conference attendees to San Diego, explaining what SDWP is and its role in developing the workforce. He talked about the five million opportunity youth nationwide (approximately 43,000 in the San Diego region) and how we must address reconnecting them to school and work. Part of this is making young people aware of jobs they might not know exists. SDWP’s Priority Sector posters help close the awareness gap.
Callstrom also spoke about how Life Sciences Summer Institute’s (LSSI) internships and teacher program, and the Introductory Life Sciences Experience designed for out-of-school youth ages 18–24, help close the disparity in access to STEM career exploration in traditionally underserved communities. He shared the story of former LSSI participant Andrea Villanueva, who was attending the conference and asked her to stand to be recognized as the first person in her family to graduate from high school and as an up-and-coming scientist. Callstrom encouraged employers in the audience to find the untapped potential in our young people.
“Just opening your door and giving a young adult the opportunity to learn is going to change their future,” said Callstrom, who also quoted Jonas Salk, who said, “Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.”
“Let’s all dare to make many more dreams reality,” said Callstrom.
Villanueva was excited to attend the conference. "My experience was incredible," said Villanueva. "The speeches were so interesting and engaging; I felt that at 25 I learned a lot. It was an honor to be able to attend alongside with so many fantastic people who have made such great contributions to the STEM community, such as Ellen Ochoa! There were many memorable moments for me, one of them being the STEM Leadership Hall of Fame panel. It was inspiring to see where their love for STEM came from and how they nourished it, as well as hearing their views on the world today. I’m thankful to have been able to attend and will be an event I cherish in my STEM career."
One day three of the conference, Workforce Development Board member Susie Harborth, Managing Director and Co-Founder of BioLabs San Diego, moderated a panel called The Next Generation of Work. Joining the panel were Darin Andersen, Chairman of CyberTECH and Chairman and CEO of CyberUnited, Inc.; Navid Alipour, Managing Partner at Analytics Ventures; Tina S. Nova, Ph.D., President and CEO of Molecular Stethoscope; and Vice Admiral (Ret.) Walter J. Davis, Co-Founder and Vice President of Organizational Development at EvoNexus. The panel of employers and experts shared their perspectives on the skills and attributes they foresee needing most in the future and how they plan to meet that demand.
Nova dispelled the myth that students need to be good in math in order to succeed in science. “A lot of young people get discouraged. We need to keep encouraging them to pursue a career in science. We need all kinds of people to work in STEM.”
“Working in science isn't working in isolation, but in teams,” Nova said. “We need good communication skills, dedication, passion.”
For more recaps of the conference, visit usnews.com/news/stem-solutions.
Photos by Brett Ziegler, U.S. News & World Report.