The Department of Energy recently announced that they’ll dedicate $70 million in funds to help BIPOC students with STEM careers and to diversify leadership roles in physical sciences.
Known as their Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce initiative, otherwise known as their RENEW initiative, the DOE’s program will give mentorship opportunities, internships and training for STEM field careers to students from 65 different educational establishments.
Offering career tips and opportunities for students across 23 states, the RENEW initiative will partner with 17 HBCUs, 11 Hispanic-Serving Institutions, two Asian American and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions as well as 10 Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Asian American and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions.
Through the course of three to five years, the program will focus on multiple projects for the awardees to explore STEM career paths. Along with hands-on training with isotope production, the RENEW initiative will provide the students with experience with coding, experimentation revolving around nuclear physics and research on high energy physics.
The program will also have students study climate modeling through computations on rainfall predictions in East Africa.
In a press release, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm emphasized the importance of ensuring that STEM careers are diversified.
“To compete on the global stage, America will need to draw scientists and engineers from every pocket of the nation, and especially from communities that have been historically underrepresented in STEM,” said Granholm in a public statement. “The RENEW initiative will support talented, motivated students to follow their passions for science, energy, and innovation, and help us overcome challenges like climate change and threats to our national security.”
Although multiple initiatives have been started to increase representation in the fields, STEM positions are amongst the jobs that are least representative of the diverse communities in the U.S.
According to a 2023 report by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, using the latest data available from 2021, researchers found that Black Americans made up nine percent of all U.S. STEM positions. Meanwhile, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans made up approximately 15% and 10% of all STEM careers, respectively.
Women made up about a third of all people holding STEM positions, comprising 35% of the work field.
Despite these percentages, researchers from the National Center maintain that the representation of BIPOC Americans and women in STEM fields is on the rise.
In the span of ten years, the amount of Black American STEM workers increased from two million to three million while the amount of Hispanic American workers increased from 3.1 million to 5.1 million.
Asian Americans also recorded a significant increase, making up 3.6 million of all STEM workers compared to the previous two million. Overall, the number of women in the STEM workforce also rose by 31%, from 9.4 million to 12.3 million.