Triple Win

As those of us in Human Resources know, today’s hiring managers face heavy challenges when recruiting diverse candidates, including Latino professionals. For those of us in STEM industries – such as biotechnology, forensic science, and aerospace engineering---even more challenges exist. According to the national Survey of Earned Doctorates, as of 2000, only 2.7 percent of Ph.D’s in science and engineering were awarded to minorities in the United States. I don’t have to tell you that that percentage is frighteningly low. With such a small pool of professionals to choose from, it is not enough for recruiters to simply attend hiring fairs and visit college campuses to look for new hires ---HR professionals who want to find diverse candidates in STEM must expand their strategy.

Here is where non-profit organizations, like the Hispanic College Fund, come in. By partnering with educational and professional development organizations, hiring managers can effectively fill in the gaps that standard recruiting strategies leave open. These partnerships create a win-win-win situation: First, they are beneficial to corporate hiring managers, as they provide access to diverse students that HR managers might not otherwise find; second, they are beneficial to the non-profits themselves, as they can help these organizations expand their services and impact on students; and third, they are beneficial to students, as they provide motivation and information about future career opportunities.

In 2006, my organization, the Hispanic College Fund, began a partnership with NASA that has produced exactly this type of “triple win.” That year, we began administering NASA’s “Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology” Project (the NASA MUST Project) as a part of a multicultural consortium that includes the United Negro College Fund’s Special Programs Corporation and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. The NASA MUST Project is a scholarship and academic support initiative designed to attract underserved students to careers in STEM industries. Each year, approximately 100 students are selected to receive up to $10,000 in scholarship funds; they are also invited to participate in a paid ten-week NASA internship and are granted access to the MUST Professional and Academic Support System (PASS), which provides scholars with tutoring, mentoring, and access to various professional development activities.

Since beginning this program, we’ve seen our NASA MUST scholars go on to shining careers in STEM industries. A full 45 percent – nearly half – of the 300 program alumni are currently pursuing a graduate degree in a STEM industry and 26 percent work full-time in a STEM industry. What’s even more impressive is that 18 percent of NASA MUST graduates currently work for NASA itself. These numbers show just how beneficial the NASA MUST program has been to our organization, to NASA, and our students. Through this partnership, the Hispanic College Fund has been able to expand its programs focused on STEM, NASA has been able to recruit significant numbers of students, and the students themselves have benefitted from their scholarships.

What can hiring managers in STEM industries learn from this example? One reason why NASA MUST is so successful as a recruiting tool is that it successfully captures students’ attention early – years before they are looking for their first professional job. By providing financial support and meaningful internship opportunities to college sophomores and juniors, NASA primes these students for future employment. Even if MUST scholars don’t work for NASA immediately after graduation, they’ve still built the foundation of a life-long relationship with the agency. This makes the job of NASA’s hiring managers easier, since the groundwork is already completed to recruit these diverse candidates. Other corporations and organizations should take note of this model and consider ways that they can begin positive, fruitful relationships with students early on.

We are still finding ways to make this partnership more fruitful, so that we can motivate more Hispanic students to pursue careers in high-need fields like science and engineering. But I encourage you to consider this example as inspiration for your own efforts. Whether you are in the corporate or non-profit sector, consider ways in which your organization can form partnerships that benefit Hispanic students. Through these relationships, we can motivate and equip our future Hispanic professionals for career success.

By Joseph Petrone is the president of the HCF.