Northern Virginia faces a critical shortage of scientists, engineers and technicians. The National Research Council and the National Science Foundation have identified the core areas of a competitive economy as being the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In 2006, the U.S. National Academies issued a warning about the decline of STEM education in America and recommended a number of actions. One of their top recommendations was to enlarge the pipeline of students preparing to enter college and graduate with STEM degrees.
In response to that recommendation, NOVA has spent the past 12 months working with area corporations and with the school divisions in Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park to develop a strategy for enlarging the STEM pipeline from high school, to NOVA, to George Mason University, and into the workforce. Through SySTEMic Solutions, NOVA has created a collaborative arrangement among school divisions, higher education institutions, and employers to create a sustainable workforce pipeline that by the year 2015 will have more than 3,000 students preparing for STEM careers.
The strategy is anchored through the Manassas, Manassas Park, and Prince William County school divisions' participation in the "Pathway to the Baccalaureate" college access and student success program that was established by NOVA in 2005. In this program, Pathway counselors are embedded in high schools and help to identify and enroll students into the STEM pipeline, work with students to be college ready for STEM programs; assist students in applying for and enrolling in college with financial aid; serve as retention counselors at NOVA; and provide continuing assistance as these students graduate from NOVA and transition to George Mason University or into the workforce. These students are likely to be the first in their family who have considered college; be an ethnic minority; and come from a moderate or lower income family.