Okay, I date myself to the 80s with that one. But those of us born prior to the last two decades will remember the verbal welcome that Norm Peterson received each time he entered the bar, Cheers, on the TV show of the same name.
Well, Norm Augustine gets almost that welcome wherever he shows up. On Friday, March 12, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin and the chairman of last year's presidentially appointed blue-ribbon Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee lent his gravitas to an early morning kick-off of the Business and Industry STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Coalition held at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. That coalition, representing 30 business and industry organizations and 20 million employees, many of them in aerospace, issued a call to arms to double the number of college graduates with a bachelor's degree in the four STEM disciplines from 200,000 a year to 400,000 a year by 2020. This should, well, stem the receding flow of highly-skilled workers needed to replace attrition in the U.S. workforce over the next decade.
The coalition will develop an inventory of work skills needed by business over the next 10 years, engage employers to promote game-changing STEM programs in all 50 states, and improve attitudes of the public toward STEM professions. The coalition will work with the already established STEM Education Coalition, which is co-chaired by the American Chemical Society and the National Science Teachers Association, and will be joined by advisory members from the Defense, Education, and Homeland Security departments, which also face shortages of highly skilled tech workers.
The central message of the coalition is that American students aren't keeping up with the rest of the world technologically. One marker: The 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment, among the most comprehensive international comparative surveys in the last several years. It found that American students ranked 21st out of 30 nations surveyed in science literacy and 25th out of 30 in math literacy. Augustine reminded the auditorium that just four percent of the working U.S. population are scientists and engineers, despite the fact that science and engineering accounts for up to 80 percent of GDP growth over the last half a century; and that two-thirds of PhDs awarded in the U.S. now go to foreign nationals.
Who better than Augustine to demonstrate that a career in aerospace is prestigious? He was the highest profile speaker of the morning, even with two congressmen on the stage. It's hard to find English on his resume, what with all the Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude, Sigma Xi, and Tau Beta Pi. Since graduating from Princeton long ago with a degree in aeronautical engineering, he's received 23 more honorary degrees, as well as the Department of Defense's highest civilian decoration, the Distinguished Service Medal—five times. He served for 16 years on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, led the 1990 Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program, and chaired the National Academies commission that produced the landmark 2007 report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. These took up about half a paragraph on a full page needed to list all of his achievements in the hand-out.
Oh, and he's stood on both the North and South Poles. But only on Earth.