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Arizona must invest today in our STEM workforce of tomorrow


Raytheon Missile Systems is the largest private employer in southern Arizona, and one of the biggest in the state with a workforce that includes engineers from every discipline, brilliant mathematicians, and some of our nation’s leading scientific minds. It is a diverse population of more than 12,000 individuals who together make our company one of the leaders in the defense and aerospace industry, and the world’s largest developer, integrator and producer of missile systems.

The pride we have in our people and the work that they accomplish is matched by a concern that permeates across our industry: America faces a serious shortage of high-tech talent.

Laura McGill

Laura McGill

In a deliberate step to address this challenge, Raytheon has developed and deployed a variety of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math outreach programs that engage students from elementary school onward. The intent is to spark a student’s early interest in these fields and sustain it through high school course selections that prepare them for STEM-related college programs.

Our programs are designed to stimulate students through scientific discovery and provide access to resources that allow them to persist in STEM, as they develop their interests in technical subjects. We strive to inspire confidence and to instill skills for success in school and beyond. By interacting with Raytheon subject-matters experts, they are exposed to positive and successful role models who enjoy technical work. These early interactions with professional scientists and engineers are a major factor in influencing a young person’s decision to pursue a STEM career.

Thanks to these efforts, Raytheon is now able to hire some of the original students with whom we connected when our programs began more than 10 years ago – many from Arizona’s underserved communities.

Our programs reach a variety of demographics and are rich with hands-on experience. As one example, Raytheon has hosted MathMovesU Days at the University of Arizona campus for the past 14 years. The program encourages middle school students from throughout Pima County to enroll in programs that position them for success in STEM subjects.

In early February, more than 200 students participated in a MathMovesU event alongside 30 early career Raytheon engineers. Our up-and-coming technical professionals worked at each table, helping students build snap circuits which they took home to share with family and friends.

Raytheon employees have also volunteered thousands of hours at Tucson’s Sunnyside High School to help improve students’ math problem-solving skills and raise the district’s scores on standardized tests. The Math Nights tutoring series is part of the two-hour, after-school program, where students are paired with volunteers to work on algebra or geometry assignments. Six events are held throughout the school year, sponsored by Raytheon’s engineering function and involving nearly 200 students and 100 volunteers.

Another key program was started by two female engineers. The A.C.E.S (Applied Career Exploration in STEM) Camp has been inspiring Tucson area middle school girls to seek STEM degrees and careers since 2006. A.C.E.S is free for the girls who are selected from local school districts that are predominately under-resourced. In 2018, nearly 50 girls took part in A.C.E.S. hands-on activities and workshops. The girls also networked with professional women from different technical industries, hearing about their career journeys and how they enabled their own success.

By supporting student involvement with STEM subjects, Raytheon is creating a pipeline of future technical talent – for our company in some cases, but most predominantly and importantly for our nation as a whole. Speaking for Raytheon, this pipeline is producing a steadily growing stream of students who have experienced our programs, with some now becoming Raytheon employees and, in some cases, beginning to volunteer for the very same programs that helped them as students.

One such Raytheon employee, now a manufacturing engineer who attended A.C.E.S. Camp, recently wrote about her experience for a Tucson newspaper. She said: “Large companies can have a profound impact on young people. I encourage my colleagues and friends to give back to their community, just like Raytheon employees gave back to me when I was a student. I think programs like these are important. They open up more doors and opportunities for girls, who can do anything they put their minds to do.”

The idea of spanning generations with these types of public-private educational partnerships is incredibly rewarding for me – a woman who was enabled to pursue a successful career in aerospace that has allowed me to engage in challenging work which is even more exciting than what I ever imagined as a student. Investment in Arizona’s developing minds represents investment in America’s technological future. What type of investment can you or your organization make today?

— Laura McGill is vice president of   engineering of Raytheon Missile Systems.

One comment

  1. Restructure the Arizona University System to provide greater accessibility, affordability, and accountability to a public university education for many more Arizonans:

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