Remarks: STEM: How the U.S. Hispanic Community will define the Future of U.S. Global Competitiveness
Friday, October 30, 2009
Prepared Remarks by
Octavio A. Hinojosa Mier
Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Northrop Grumman Professional Development Summit
STEM: How the U.S. Hispanic Community will define the Future of U.S.
Global Competitiveness and National Security.
Thank you for the introduction.
In my role as the Executive Director of the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI),
I am honored to be here attending the 2009 Professional Development Summit hosted by
Northrop Grumman and ADELANTE.
I appreciate the invitation extended to me to participate as your speaker for today’s luncheon.
I would like to take this opportunity to once again congratulate ADELANTE for its mission. As
the employee resource group for Northrop Grumman Hispanic employees, ADELANTE took the
lead in planning today’s event. Thank you for your vision and leadership.
Two years ago, I had the honor of joining you in celebrating the kickoff for ADELANTE at the
BWI Campus of Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems’. I am delighted to return and to see
many of you here again.
The Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute
Before I comment on how, in the coming years, the U.S. Hispanic Community will define the
future of U.S. global competitiveness and national security, I do want to take this opportunity
to highlight the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, its mission and initiatives.
The mission of the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute is - To Advance the Hispanic
community’s Diversity of Thought.
Six years ago, in 2003, the Hispanic community of the United States was officially recognized as
our nation’s second largest demographic group. Today, Americans of Hispanic descent number
roughly 47 million within the 50 States and with Puerto Rico, we total 51 million. The 2010
Census will confirm we are now at least 16% of our national population.
Coinciding with the official announcement as our nation’s second largest demographic group,
the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute was founded in the fall of 2003 by Members of
Congress who recognized there is a strong need for our community to promote and embrace the
concept of diversity of thought within the leadership of national Hispanic organizations and
In so doing, we asked ourselves an important question: As the nation’s second largest
demographic group, what role are we to play in the formulation and implementation of
national public and foreign policy agenda?
Do we lead or do we follow?
The answer is clear – We lead!
And we will lead in all aspects of society, including the Science, Technology, Engineering and
Since its foundation, CHLI has been strongly committed to providing a forum for open
discussion on issues of great importance to the U.S. Hispanic community.
We recognize the current demographic shift as an opportunity for our nation to seize and
maximize. Some view the emergence of the Hispanic community as a challenge to our ever
evolving identity as a people, as Americans.
At CHLI, we see our growing demographic, economic and political clout as an opportunity to
contribute, to serve and, more importantly, to provide strong leadership as our nation faces still
unknown challenges in the 21st century.
CHLI offers the U.S. Hispanic community a vision of the American Dream that focuses upon
self-reliance, education, entrepreneurship, family, and full integration into American society
while at the same time proudly embracing our rich, dynamic and diverse cultural heritage, which
is also shared by over 400 million worldwide.
CHLI brings thought leaders from diverse viewpoints from all sectors to discuss issues as varied
as foreign policy, small business ownership, immigration, English acquisition, education,
housing, health care, as well as other timely topics of importance.
Today, we are honored to step up to the plate to discuss an important issue facing each of us here
today. I am speaking of course of the role of the Hispanic community and STEM.
The World’s Second Most Competitive Economy
Last month, The United States of America was officially dethroned from holding the title as
"The World’s Most Competitive Economy”. For the first time since the World Economic Forum
began its current index in 2004, we were displaced by Switzerland, a country better known for its
chocolates, watches and fondues.
The downturn of our financial markets, our rising budget deficits and our declining ability to
innovate all played a factor in this year’s results. While the first two factors are clear, the latter is
directly tied to the growing domestic leadership deficit within the science, technology,
engineering and mathematics fields.
Many American companies, including Northrop Grumman, are global players. As we continue
the trend to integrate our domestic economy with the rest of the world, the increase pressure to
compete head to head with others is deeply felt by both management and employees. To
overcome this challenge, our domestic innovation capacity becomes increasingly vital within the
global economy of the 21st century.
Herein is the reason why CHLI embraces and promotes the concept of diversity of thought not
just within the U.S. Hispanic community, but within the private sector as well. We do so because
we are firmly convinced that a diverse American workforce will give our private sector the
competitive edge to out compete, to outperform, to out produce, any company, at anytime, in any
country, anywhere in the globe!
Today’s business leaders are faced with the following reality: Governments around the world are supporting the innovation capacity of their private sector with significant investment, research, and STEM education from K to the Post-Graduate level.
Meanwhile, it seems that, as a society, we, as Americans, are spinning our wheels as we see
country after country graduate engineers at a much higher level.
China today graduates 600,000 engineers each year. India 350,000. The United States only
In 2001, for example, slightly more than 200,000 STEM bachelor’s degrees were awarded to
U.S. citizens and permanent residents. In 2006, the number increased slightly to 225,660.
The U.S. Department of Labor suggests that over the next ten years, the need for STEM
professionals in our domestic economy is going to grow not by three percent, or ten percent, not
twenty percent, or even forty percent, but by fifty percent! But while the demand for these jobs is
increasing, the talent pool is decreasing. The supply of STEM workers is not keeping up with the
In order for our country to meet the growing demand for STEM professionals, and especially
within national security related industries, we will need to nearly double the graduation rate of to
400,000 by 2015!
Therefore, this must be a top public policy issue for all Americans,
But due to our demographic and economic growth, Hispanics will play a greater role and have an
increasing impact in all sectors of within our domestic economy, as well as the global economy.
So the question I would like to pose to each of you here today is this? Do we import the talent?
Or, will be better off if we develop our own domestic talent?
The fact remains that the number of students taking math and sciences classes, and choosing
engineering or technical careers is declining. Yet, we need to aggressively grow our talent pool if
we are to have a chance to maintain our standard of living, which this past year has been
Today, we need to collectively answer the call to action to inspire a new generation of Hispanic
STEM professionals to lead our nation in innovation, in creativity, and to ensure we have the
needed skills to meet the yet unknown challenges awaiting us in the 21
st Century. If we, as a
society, fail to awaken the passion for STEM careers, especially within today’s K-12 Hispanic
students, our national security is in serious risk.
I believe we can each play a decisive role in answering this call today.
As the largest
ethnic minority in the United States, Americans of Hispanic descent we are also
fastest-growing demographic group. Our numbers grow by an average of 4,000 a day.
Since 2000, we have accounted for fifty percent of our natural population growth – that is to say,
one out of every two Americans born today is of Hispanic descent. Furthermore, the Garcias and
the Rodriguez’ are now the 8
th and 9th most common surnames for Americans. While the
Martinez’ are on verge of overtaking the Wilsons as the 10
th most common last name.
In general, Hispanics, as a group are the youngest demographic group. Our median age is
currently 27 compared to 36 for the rest of the population. For those of us who are of Mexican
descent, our median age is 25, the lowest of all Hispanic subgroups. As of 2008, the average age
of the federal workforce, for example, was nearly 47 with an average retirement age of 62 years
Within the next twenty years, seventy to eighty million baby boomers will exit the U.S.
workforce. Today, five percent of the American workforce is employed in STEM-related jobs,
yet only two percent of Hispanics are employed in these occupations.
Within the federal government itself, the Office of Personal Management (OPM) last year
projected 577,000 federal employees are expected to retire during the ten year period between
2008 and 2018. Among them include countless engineers, scientists and other STEM related
Many, of course, are tied to national security related occupations which require Top Secret or
above security clearances that only available to U.S. born Americans can obtain due to
Education is Key to STEM’s Future
Studies are also showing that in the next ten years, our country needs at least two million more
K-12 teachers and, in addition, we need 250,000 new math and science teachers in the next two
Perhaps here lies an area of opportunity for all of us. We must identify effective ways to increase
the recruitment, retention, employment and the professional development of Hispanics
employees not only within Northrop Grumman, but throughout the entire sector.
Among mission-critical positions, especially those that relate to our national security, the federal
government must play a decisively active role in encouraging Hispanic students to consider
pursuing STEM related careers.
Consider the fact that less than 40% of students intending to major in STEM fields upon college
entrance actually complete a degree in these fields. This rate drops to below 25% for
Needless to say these numbers are alarming, discouraging, and pose a very serious threat to our
competitiveness, prosperity and national security.
Consequently, as I previously cited, the United States is no longer the world’s most competitive
country. This is a serious crisis which must be fully addressed with the federal government and
private sector playing a decisive role.
When it comes to promoting the importance of STEM careers and Hispanics, CHLI is showing
strong leadership by hosting a Congressional briefing focusing on STEM and how the U.S.
Hispanic community will define the future competitiveness of our country. You are all invited to
Clearly the key to improving the STEM employment rate is directly related to education. Earlier
this month, the Pew Hispanic Center released a report titled
"Latinos and Education:
Explaining the Attainment Gap.”
It cites nearly nine in ten Hispanic youth between the ages of
16 and 25 acknowledge that a collage education is important to overall success in life. However,
only half plan to obtain a college degree. The reason cited for such the difference between the
two figures is financial constraints facing the student and family.
Today, approximately sixty percent of Hispanic age 25 or older holds a high school degree;
thirteen percent have a bachelor’s degree, while only 811,000 hold advance degrees.
Yet each year the number of Hispanic students obtaining a bachelor’s degree is growing. Over
the past five years, I have seen the growing demand of Hispanic youth wanting to come to
Washington, DC to obtain an internship within the U.S. Congress or in one of our federal
agencies. This fact alone inspires the CHLI Board of Directors, its staff and me to work even
harder to create more opportunities for qualified candidates.
As a leading national Hispanic non-profit organization, I am proud to share with you that starting
in January, 2010, CHLI, in partnership with the George Washington University Semester in
Washington Program, will welcome its first class of students who will spend a semester interning
with Members of Congress and eventually intern with key federal departments and agencies. We
also welcome Northrop Grumman to support us in this important initiative.
Any organization, company or federal agency that embraces a culture of diversity of thought and
employs individuals from diverse backgrounds and life experiences ultimately evolve into
dynamic and productive entities. Hiring a Hispanic employee is clearly a win-win proposition for
both the individual and Northrop Grumman.
We are each witnessing tremendous changes in the workplace. The demographic, economic and
technological changes are contributing to new ways of performing our jobs. To best face these
challenges, the STEM community must both adapt and embrace these changes as positive.
As the nation’s only demographic group that is not just replacing itself, but is actually growing
exponentially in both percentage and real numbers – I again remind you that one of every two
Americans born today is Hispanic – both the private and non-profit sectors are becoming
increasingly aware of the important leadership role Americans of Hispanic descent will play in
our nation’s economy.
In closing, the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute joins you in raising awareness of the
importance of supporting and developing future leaders within STEM fields.
If we, as a society, fail to awaken the passion within the U.S. Hispanic community to inspire
today’s Hispanic K-12 students to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering and
mathematics fields, our country’s innovative and creative capacity, as well as its national
security, is not only threatened, but is in serious risk in the years ahead. Worse still, the United
States may lose is global competitiveness and may never recover the coveted title of "The
World’s Most Competitive Economy.”
I thank each of you for your leadership role within ADELANTE and Northrop Grumman.
I welcome each of you to consider CHLI and its staff as a resource in the future