Demands for engineers, scientists and other high-tech professionals are at an all-time high, yet only 6 percent of high school students nationwide are expected to obtain college degrees one day in math-related fields. Given these statistics, P&W AeroPower employees are stepping up to the plate to help local students pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math – known as STEM skills – through their volunteer efforts with the San Diego MESA Alliance.
An acronym for Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement, MESA is a national group administered by the University of California that supports disadvantaged and minority students pursuing STEM degrees.
"Our mission is to inspire students to pursue high-tech careers and give them the tools they need to gain the competitive edge. This is not only good for the students, but for high-tech companies like P&W AeroPower that need to ensure there's a steady wave of incoming talent with STEM-related job skills," said Maria Charles, a P&W AeroPower senior engineer and active volunteer with the San Diego MESA Alliance.
Over the past few months, P&W AeroPower has supported the MESA Alliance in many ways. In addition to corporate donations, company representatives participated at the San Diego MESA Alliance's inaugural industry summit last month, and also hosted 19 MESA students during an annual Training Academy at its San Diego site in March.
"In order to stay competitive, corporations need to create more professional development and hands-on career opportunities for students – especially those who are economically disadvantaged – since they represent our future. That is why our employees have graciously volunteered their time to support local MESA events," said Rick Elgin, P&W AeroPower chief engineer, who spearheaded the company's involvement in the program several years ago.
Charles knows firsthand of the dilemma facing disadvantaged students wishing to pursue STEM careers, because she was among MESA's many success stories. Before getting hired on at P&W AeroPower as an engineer, she was a struggling single mother and worked as a telemarketer after having served 10 years with the U.S. Navy as an electronic technician. She said the MESA program provided her with the resources and morale support needed to complete her education and obtain on-the-job experience (as an intern) before being hired by the company.
Charles participated at the MESA summit last month and also played a key role at the annual Training Academy on March 22. During the event, the students had the opportunity learn about ACE/Lean Six Sigma concept, tour the facility and conduct a mistake proofing analysis using the famous Titanic British passenger liner as a model.
"All it takes is 30 minutes to make a difference in a student's life," Charles said. "Just taking the time to talk with them and share experiences can give them hope. With a little encouragement, they'll have more confidence to pursue their career path and achieve their goals."