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Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable (US); National Academy of Sciences (US); National Academy of Engineering (US); Institute of Medicine (US); Fox MA, editor. Pan-Organizational Summit on the US Science and Engineering Workforce: Meeting Summary. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2003.

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Pan-Organizational Summit on the US Science and Engineering Workforce: Meeting Summary.

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Position Paper on the U.S. Science and Engineering Workforce


Prepared by

L. Dennis Smith, President, University of Nebraska, Forum Immediate Past Chairman, Roberts T. Jones, Forum Executive Committee, Warren J. Baker, President, California Polytechnic State University

Presented by

Constantine Papadakis, President, Drexel University

The Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF) was founded in 1978 to address the interdependence of American businesses, colleges and universities, and museums. It has increased communication among the sectors, analyzed issues of mutual concern, and deliberated on courses of action that will effect change on these topics. Within the last five years, the majority of its initiatives have focused on critical issues related to a high-performance U.S. workforce, although none of these specifically address supply and demand workforce issues of future science and engineers. In preparing reports on these issues, the Forum was briefed by experts in the areas of interest; reviewed relevant research and reports; compiled data from a variety of sources; and conducted interviews and meetings with a broad range of participants from the K-12, higher education, military, and business sectors.

Many reports, including those of the BHEF, have articulated and documented all aspects of the workforce crisis that America is now facing. This paper does not attempt, even in a summary fashion, to capture the depth and breadth of the problem. Instead, this paper attempts to synthesize the findings and actionable recommendations of the BHEF on the workforce-related issues it has targeted and studied. BHEF's recommendations are not aimed primarily toward federal policymakers but are largely directed toward education practitioners and business partners. Issues addressed by BHEF include:

  1. The preparation of college graduates for today's workplace—the role of business and higher education
  2. The development of all of America's talent—promoting diversity in the classroom and workplace
  3. The improvement of America's schools—sharing the responsibility
  4. Current issues now under study include:
    The use of technology in preparing students and workers for high-performing jobs—making learning more effective and accessible
  5. The challenge of improving mathematics and science education— developing a plan to increase participation and achievement


Spanning the Chasm: A Blueprint for Action, Business-Higher Education Forum, 1999.

Serious gaps now exist between the skills possessed by college graduates and those required by today's high-performance jobs. The majority of students are severely lacking in flexible skills and attributes, such as leadership, teamwork, problem solving, time management, self-management, adaptability, analytical thinking, global consciousness, and basic communications including listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Spanning the Chasm calls for a strong business-higher education collaborative focused on strategies to arm graduates with these skills to ensure their successful transition from the campus to the workplace.

The report offers six core recommendations that address two main questions. The first asks:

What can be done to ensure that students acquire the skills and attributes necessary to succeed in today's high-performance workplace?

In addition to providing pertinent data, the core curriculum needs to help students develop flexible and cross-functional skill sets—leadership, teamwork, problem solving, time management, communication, and analytical thinking.

  • Activities and projects that require teamwork can help students value diversity and deal with ambiguity.
  • Essays and open-ended questions that test for practical applications of theories should replace memorization exams.
  • Faculty should utilize problem-solving teaching opportunities in addition to theoretical discussion. Professional development opportunities should be provided to develop strategies and tools focused on teaching workplace skills.

The core curriculum must address student acquisition or reinforce-ment of personal traits—ethics, adaptability, self-management, global consciousness, and a passion for lifelong learning.

  • Foreign language, which promotes cultural understanding and global consciousness, should be required.
  • Methods for acquiring the personal traits required for today's workplace should be coordinated between K-12 and colleges and universities.
  • Methods of education must be revised to ensure that workers can think for themselves, make on-the-spot decisions, and think on an international scale.

The second question asks:

What can higher education and/or industry do to help students develop these skills and attributes?

Developing a collaborative process for restructuring curricula and teaching methods must become a critical priority for business and higher education.

  • Faculty recognition of the need for updating the curricula is a vital step in initiating required innovations.
  • Distance learning technologies and flexible class schedules offer the universities the means to reach older, working students.
  • Corporate participation on university advisory boards provides for the communication link that is needed to keep curricula current.

Both the corporate and academic sectors must provide more opportunities for students to apply theoretical concepts to real learning experiences.

  • Co-op courses, internships, and other hands-on work opportunities can provide students with optimal applied-learning experiences.
  • Corporate and alumni mentoring and executive role modeling via video and satellite can help reach a greater number of students.
  • More consistent use of case studies and examples will help students understand the practical applications of abstract concepts.

University career service advisers need to become more visible on campus and to build linkages to corporate recruiters.

  • All students need to participate in job fairs, workshops, and career planning sessions throughout their college career. Faculty should encourage student participation.
  • Surveys of alumni, current students, and corporate leaders need to be conducted to determine “what works and what doesn't.”
  • Corporate recruiters can assist career service advisers in conducting workshops on employment skills and job-search skills.

The academic-corporate dialogue should include faculty and focus on practical, action-oriented items.

  • Faculty involvement in corporate programs generates awareness of skill requirements and corporate expectations.
  • Clear articulation of skill requirements by employers enhances the ability of the faculty to develop appropriate curricula and teaching methods.
  • Rewards and incentives need to be devised to encourage more corporate-academic interactions, externships, and professional development activities.
  • A greater corporate presence on campus is necessary to help both students and faculty keep current with workplace issues and priorities.


Investing in People, Business-Higher Education Forum, 2002

The BHEF issued this report with three key purposes:

  1. To review and summarize research evidence and other arguments that support the value of racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity in business and higher education
  2. To call attention to the many programs and strategies—including internships, mentoring programs, and sophisticated academic admissions systems—that foster diversity and can serve as models for companies and universities seeking effective, legal tools for achieving racial and ethnic diversity
  3. To offer recommendations for developing all of America's talent that business and academe can implement, separately or jointly.

The BHEF calls on its colleagues in business and academia, on policymakers, and on the American public to join them in implementing the following to ensure diversity in the classroom and in the workplace:

  1. Support and strengthen existing outreach programs that focus on the value of attending college, ways to prepare students and assist them in applying for and attending college, and the importance of lifelong learning. Create programs where they do not exist.
  2. Provide the resources to ensure that teachers are prepared to work effectively with racially and ethnically diverse students.
  3. Review current strategies and policies designed to foster diversity and ensure that they are meeting their goals, and publicize the results of these reviews in the higher education and business communities.
  4. Advocate that colleges and universities take the whole person into account when making admissions decisions; that is, consider all relevant qualities—not just grades and test scores—in assessing each applicant.
  5. Encourage corporate foundations to provide support for diversity initiatives, and to share the programs and their results with professional peers.
  6. As part of the business employee recruitment process, emphasize to campuses the importance of being able to recruit personnel from a diverse student body.
  7. Urge national policymakers to increase the amount of the Pell Grant to its congressionally authorized annual maximum of $5,800 per student.
  8. Strengthen learning outcomes, through continuous assessment and application of promising practices in the nation's elementary and secondary schools.
  9. Encourage university governing boards and state policymakers to give priority to increasing the amount of need-based aid, even in the face of competing legislative agendas and state university budget cuts.
  10. Create state and/or local coalitions between education and business leaders to promote discussion and joint action to achieve diversity and tolerance on campus and in business.
  11. Provide awareness, in all appropriate forums, of the broad range of successful practices that open opportunity to, and strengthen the quality of, education.

Investing in People: Developing All of America's Talent on Campus and in the Workplace is available in PDF at


Sharing Responsibility—How Leaders in Business and Higher Education Can Improve America's Schools, Business Higher Education Forum, 2002

A decade of work by K-16 educators, combined with the action of policymakers and the insistent voices of business and civic leaders, has produced a standards-based reform initiative for K-12 education that is now at the core of educational improvement efforts nationwide. Yet much needs to be done to ensure that all students achieve at higher levels and that all students are prepared to assume positions in today's high performance workforce.

In Sharing Responsibility the BHEF proposes to strengthen the best education improvement work now under way through a new generation of focused, strategic, and sustained partnerships that elicit best efforts from leaders in business, higher education, and K-12 schools. It acknowledges the work of the many existing education partnerships but calls for more ambitious collaborations of the three sectors. These tripartite partnerships produce four powerful benefits: the generation of a comprehensive, coherent strategy; the achievement of critical mass in reform efforts; the coordination of projects to leverage resources; and the acceptance of joint responsibility for implementing reform efforts across the education system.

The BHEF recommends that leaders in the three sectors use the following best practices derived from its study of education collaborations throughout the nation.

  1. Involve as many different parties as possible. Make certain that representatives from public schools, colleges and universities, and business are present. Seek involvement by elected officials, community organizations, and unions, where possible.
  2. Involve the highest level of leadership: company executives, superintendents and presidents of schools, and chancellors of colleges and universities.
  3. Establish ongoing, formal collaborative structures with a defined mission and clear goals and agendas. Meet regularly.
  4. Focus on student achievement.
  5. Develop a long-term focus and commit to a multiyear effort.
  6. Develop a collaborative plan focused on systemic, coherent reform efforts.
  7. Concentrate on the most important issues: the system-changing improvements that will result in higher student achievement. Be willing to tackle important issues even if they are difficult and may produce conflict.
  8. Be results-oriented and establish methods to evaluate results. Hold the collaborators accountable for achieving those results, just as schools and students are being held accountable.
  9. Dedicate staff and money to the collaboration.
  10. Remain above politics. Insist that the organization's strategic plan and recommendations avoid partisan or special-interest advantage.

Sharing Responsibility calls for the increased involvement of higher education in K-12 education reform efforts. It recommends that

  1. colleges and universities should focus on improving teacher education programs;
  2. college and university leaders should step up their leadership on K-16 education reform issues;
  3. higher education should link admissions and other practices to K-12 standards and assessments;
  4. presidents and chancellors should devote a senior staff member to K-16 improvement activities; and
  5. presidents and chancellors should initiate a high-level community or state education collaboration if none exists.

Sharing Responsibility can be downloaded from:


In 1999, when the BHEF wrote Spanning the Chasm: A Blueprint for Action, it was very concerned about how to better prepare college graduates for the jobs of the future. Now, three years later, the BHEF notes a heightened sense of urgency in addressing the “skills deficit.” Educators, administrators, business and government leaders are now part of an effort to promote learning transformation in ways that are more responsive to the individual learner and more effective in achieving the desired educational outcomes. However, the BHEF realizes that identifying learning solutions that help students develop the cross-functional, flexible skills in leadership, teamwork, communications, and other key attributes to success isn't enough.

The BHEF is nearing completion of a paper that will offer suggestions on how to make learning solutions widely available. It will outline the necessary investments in software and systems, training and support, and other investments in people and institutions to ensure that learning for the workplace of today and the future is a reality across the spectrum.

The core recommendations of the paper will build on the policy recommendations on the use of information technology in higher education that have been proposed by other groups, including the American Council on Education, the Career College Association, the Digital Promise, Educause, the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, The Pew Learning and Technology Program, and the Web-based Education Commission. The BHEF will identify three overarching goals along with specific action items for colleges and universities, the business community, government officials, and policymakers for implementing and sustaining learning transformation.

Goal I will address the need for the creation of a national vision for learning transformation. The BHEF will call on higher education leaders to take the lead in developing this national vision and for issuing a call to action for higher education to achieve greater opportunities to promote lifelong learning. It will encourage business leaders, government officials, and the military establishment to continue to articulate their needs and to work in partnership with higher education. And it will call on policymakers and government officials to develop and support policies that promote learning transformation using technology.

Goal II will focus on the needs to ground learning transformation in the collaborative research of academia, government, and the private sector. To support this goal and to ensure the dissemination and implementation of best practices, recommendations for action will include the establishment of state and regional centers for learning transformation, learning and networking transformation grants, and an interagency working group on learning transformation.

Goal III will highlight the need for significant investment in, and coordination of, networking resources to support the infrastructure necessary to deliver learning transformation. Recommendations for action will include a national advisory commission on information technology (IT) in higher education, policies to promote the development and sharing of content across institutions and federal and state governments, and policies to promote delivery and access across campuses and to a broader universe of students through partnerships with business and government.

The paper is scheduled to be released in 2003.


In response to the well-documented need for improved mathematics and science achievement by all of America's students, the BHEF has undertaken a Mathematics and Science Education initiative. The goal of the initiative is to increase substantially the number of students enrolled in core mathematics and science courses, in every grade from K-16, and to dramatically increase the achievement levels of these students in each of these programs. The BHEF seeks collaboration with a broad array of constituencies—parents, students, K-12 educators and administrators, businesses, two- and four-year college and university faculty, school boards, K-16 councils, professional associations, government agencies, corporate and private foundations, and policymakers—to develop and implement a systemic, National Blueprint for Mathematics and Science Education. The Blueprint, a comprehensive and coordinated plan to be used by state and local jurisdictions, will outline necessary steps to change the learning culture, expectations, investments, and outcome of mathematics and science education from early grades through university. It will address all elements of the educational system and will include strategies to sustain educational change efforts over the long term.

In its recent discussions on mathematics and science education, BHEF has identified the value of surveying programs and research carried out by state education offices, K-12 systems, education reform projects, state cooperative networks, universities, corporations, government agencies, and professional associations. It would identify programs, policies, and tools that meet the principles of best practice for increasing the mathematics and science achievement of all students, and it would outline a comprehensive plan for the coordinated integration of these programs and policies nationwide. Programs such as the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program (AMP) and the Kids Involved Doing Science (KIDS) Program, both of which have produced measurable results in increased student achievement, are examples of the programs that could be built upon and expanded. The policy work of interstate collaboratives such as the Midwest Higher Education Consortium, a compact of 10 states that promotes cooperation and resource sharing in higher education, and the Council of Chief State School Officers' state collaboratives on assessment, accountability, reporting, and student standards, could be shared nationally as models for how states and districts can come to consensus on major educational issues. Mentoring programs, such as the undergraduate research experience in the AMP program, and teacher-in-the workplace programs, such as the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Research Experience for Teachers Program could serve as program examples for national implementation.

The BHEF would revisit federal programs, such as NSF's Summer Institutes for Teachers, as a model to address teacher content and pedagogy issues. It would strongly support the recommendations in the report Before It's Too Late, the work of the Glenn Commission, that addresses all aspects of the teaching of mathematics and science. It would investigate how best to build on and expand the NSF's Mathematics and Science Partnership Program, which supports partnerships of local school districts with science, mathematics, engineering, and education faculties of colleges and universities, state governments, professional organizations, and nonprofit groups.

In its discussions of how to finance the implementation of the Blueprint, the BHEF has considered strategies that will catalyze corporate and foundation giving to supplement federal education dollars. One strategy that has been deliberated is to use the corporate and higher education voices of the BHEF to motivate the Fortune 1000 companies to provide up to $1,000,000 each, matched to federal contributions, to support the implementation of the Blueprint at the state and local levels.

Using the survey outcomes, research results, and collaboration with federal, state, and local education agencies, the BHEF would develop a “straw man” paper, with K-16 action plans, which would be discussed and amended in a series of five local meetings around the country. They would be hosted by BHEF members and would provide opportunity for input by educators, policymakers, and business people. The BHEF would subsequently engage the broader community to create a critical mass of support for this call to action.

Copyright © 2003, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK36381


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