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SDF Working to Build, Diversify Local STEM Talent Pipeline

NONPROFITS: $750K to Support Student Programming

San Diego Foundation (SDF) continues to work to build and diversify the local talent pipeline for science, technology, engineering and math industries, focusing in on high school- and college-age young persons to lead the way.

SDF leaders say they believe strongly in the importance of increasing opportunities for science, technology, engineering and math higher education among underrepresented young adults, connecting young adults with local, paid internships and establishing networks of current and prospective scientists.

Katie Rast
Director of Community Impact
San Diego Foundation

Recognizing the importance of the innovation economy in San Diego, the foundation says it’s important that local businesses have access to a strong, diverse local talent pipeline to support the region’s local workforce and economy. “It is equally important that San Diego students who will be entering the workforce soon have access to opportunities to enter into quality jobs that offer them economic security in the future,” said Katie Rast, San Diego Foundation’s director of community impact. “Science, technology, engineering and math fields offer many opportunities for the workforce of tomorrow to pursue quality jobs and careers here in our region.”

The foundation’s Science & Technology Program creates a holistic approach to increase equity for all communities and bolster the regional innovation economy for generations to come.

Working with local universities, colleges, other nonprofits and employers, the Science & Technology Program exposes more high school and college students to careers in STEM, with a focus on equity and inclusion of women and Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities.

San Diego Foundation recently finished accepting applications seeking its offer of $750,000 in grants for nonprofits working to advance the future of STEM-focused industries. Eligible nonprofit organizations were able to apply for awards ranging from $25,000 to $75,000. Winners are expected to be named in February.

STEM Support

Since 1999, the Science & Technology Program has granted more than $9.5 million to 33 local nonprofit partners to support 937 young people from backgrounds typically underrepresented in STEM fields.

“We envision a San Diego where the young adults of today have the opportunity to become STEM leaders of tomorrow,” Rast said. “These grants will focus on the preparation of a skilled, equitable workforce in subject areas that are specific to the needs of the San Diego region.”

In a recent San Diego Regional Innovation Report produced by Connect, the group said that the regional innovation sector accounts for more than 25% of San Diego’s economic activity.

However, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation outlines that Latinx and Black communities are greatly underrepresented in San Diego’s highest-paying occupations: engineers, developers and scientists.

In its publication “Future of Growth in San Diego: The Economic Case for Inclusion and Building San Diego’s Talent Pipeline,” the EDC and the Brookings Institution outlined that the region has become an “innovation powerhouse.”

But despite this great potential, not all San Diegans benefit from the advances of the innovation economy, the report says.

Among the conclusions they reached, the groups say that the San Diego region needs more highly skilled workers to maintain its competitive edge and that by focusing on young adults, the region can strengthen the future workforce.

According to the San Diego EDC, pandemic-related disruptions have further exacerbated economic disparities threatening San Diego’s competitiveness and resilience. The group says that to remain competitive, San Diego’s small businesses will now require an additional 100,000 new quality jobs by 2030, twice the previous estimate.

Building a Talent Pipeline

“While we grapple with a nation-wide talent shortage, it is up to regions and local employers to support and develop a pipeline of talent to fill in-demand roles,” said

Taylor Dunne
Senior Manager of Talent Initiatives
San Diego EDC

Taylor Dunne, senior manager of talent initiatives at the EDC. “Long-term systems change in San Diego will mean ensuring Black and Hispanic youth have access to STEM jobs of the future. These groups represent the majority – 53% – of today’s K-12 students but are only represented in 22% of current innovation economy jobs. Smart economic development must mean inclusive economic development.”

The foundation’s Science & Technology Program seeks to help build the talent pipeline from existing students in San Diego County.

“The Science & Technology Program supports efforts to create and expand a pipeline connecting young adults to college and career opportunities,” Rast said. “The goal of the Science & Technology Program grant is to increase the number of historically underrepresented, high-potential students in the STEM career pipeline by providing opportunities for stipend-supported internships in advanced technical and scientific fields.”

A two-time previous grant winner from the Science & Technology Program is the Elementary Institute of Science in the Emerald Hills neighborhood of San Diego, for its Girls Take Flight program.

The school most recently was awarded $26,150 in 2021 toward the program, a nine-month initiative where students learn to build, program and fly drones, leading to Federal Aviation Administration commercial drone pilot certification.

According to SDF, virtually all participants have enrolled in college after high school graduation and 90% of the students have passed an FAA exam to become certified drone pilots. The foundation said that nearly 10% of all female-certified drone pilots in the U.S. under age 20 were trained at the Elementary Institute of Science.

San Diego Foundation

FOUNDED: 1975
HEADQUARTERS: Liberty Station, Point Loma
BUSINESS:  Community foundation
REVENUE:  $164M in FY 2022
EMPLOYEES: 84
WEBSITE: SDFoundation.org
CONTACT: info@SDFoundation.org
SOCIAL IMPACT: In 2021, San Diego Foundation released its Strategic Plan, which includes “advancing racial and social justice, fostering equity of opportunity, building resilient communities and delivering world-class philanthropy.”
NOTABLE: For 47 years, San Diego Foundation and its donors have granted more than $1.4 billion to support nonprofit organizations strengthening our community.

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