By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Correspondent
The United States will need an estimated 1 million more STEM professionals by 2022 to keep up with workforce demands, according to U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.).
To help meet that need Butterfield has introduced HR 1586, which would amend the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Organization Act.
“This Act may be cited as the ‘Building Resources Into Digital Growth and Education Act of 2019,’ or the BRIDGE Act of 2019,” said Butterfield. “My bill will expand the opportunities available to HBCUs to ensure the students they serve are prepared for tomorrow’s innovation economy.” The representative is using the Twitter hashtag, #UnBoxingTheBill, to help promote his legislation.
Butterfield’s proposal mandates the establishment of a digital network technology program.
Through the program, grants are awarded, and cooperative agreements and contracts are provided to eligible institutions to assist in acquiring and augmenting broadband internet access.
Institutions would develop and provide training, education, and professional development programs, including faculty development, to increase the use of broadband internet access service.
Butterfield’s legislation would provide teacher education, including the provision of preservice teacher training and in-service professional development at eligible institutions, library, and media specialist training sites.
It would provide preschool and teacher aid certification to individuals who seek to acquire or enhance technology skills to use broadband internet access service in the classroom.
Certifications would include instruction in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology subjects.
Further, the BRIDGE Act would allow participating institutions to obtain capacity-building technical assistance, including through remote technical support, technical assistance workshops, and distance learning services.
Butterfield said that would help to foster the use of broadband internet access service to improve research and education, including STEM instruction.
The bill would also create or support centers at eligible institutions that are designed to spur innovation, opportunity, and advancement for entrepreneurs and start-ups.
“There are more than 100 HBCUs throughout the country, and unfortunately, many are in desperate need of improved technology and instructional resources,” Butterfield said.
“The BRIDGE Act is a solution to solve that,” he said.
Butterfield and members of the Congressional Black Caucus have long championed STEM education for African Americans and other minority students.
During the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBCF) Annual Legislative Conference, Butterfield and others have sat in on or hosted panels to discuss the importance of STEM.
“The STEM field is important to our country, it’s critical to jobs in the 21st century—jobs that make the big bucks,” Butterfield told students from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and Carver Technology Early College High School, who participated in a 2017 CBCF conference. “To succeed, we need to draw from the best in our community.”
Butterfield continued: “The lack of African-Americans in STEM means that many of our best minds are not included.”