Campus: Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo -- March 28, 2002

California's Economic Health Endangered: Baker Forum Keynoter To Report on Critical Need for Improvement in Science, Tech Education

SAN LUIS OBISPO -- The newly scheduled speaker for Cal Poly's April 5 Baker Forum, California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) Executive Director Susan Hackwood, will report on what the state must do to remain the nation's science and technology leader and keep its high-tech economy healthy.

Hackwood's address, "California at Risk: The Imperative for Science and Technology Educational Reform," will discuss a CCST report warning that "California´s educational system is not producing the science and engineering graduates needed to meet industry's growing requirement for skilled workers. This (threatens) California´s leadership position in science and technology."

Hackwood will speak at 4:30 p.m. in the Cal Poly Theatre. Admission to this inaugural Baker Forum keynote address is free and open to the public. Parking also will be free.

"California produces technologies that are the envy of the world," said Cal Poly Provost Paul Zingg. "However, the same cannot be said of our ability to generate sufficient numbers of scientifically and technically educated graduates from our colleges and universities to meet the needs of the high-tech sector of the California economy. Over the past decade, the number of students entering scientific and technical fields has stagnated or declined in California.

"Given our dependence on a science- and technology-based economy, our increasingly diverse population and the serious weaknesses of our educational system, California faces unique challenges if we are to maintain our position as a global leader in high technology," Zingg said. "We simply must find ways of engaging more Californians in the study of science, mathematics, engineering and other technical subjects."

Hackwood will share the results of the CCST´s just-completed two-year study of mathematics, science and technology education in California from kindergarten through graduate school and continuing education. The report is titled "A Critical Path Analysis of California´s Science and Technology Education System."

(The previously scheduled appearance of Harvard zoologist Stephen Jay Gould has been canceled because of unforeseen circumstances.)

Cal Poly President Warren J. Baker is a member of the CCST committee that has guided the analysis, which addresses various aspects of the problem, including the technology sector´s demand for workers and the "digital divide" between the computer-literate and those who aren´t part of the "wired" society. The study identifies how schools at all levels can better prepare future scientists, engineers and other skilled workers.

Currently, more than 14,000 high-tech jobs in California are unfilled for lack of qualified workers, the council says, while only 20,000 science and engineering graduates are produced each year -- only 60 percent of the number needed to satisfy industry demand.

The California Council on Science and Technology is sponsored by the state´s key academic institutions. Its 120-plus members -- including leaders in science and technology, members of the national academies and six Nobel Prize laureates -- advise the state on all aspects of science and technology, including energy, information technology, biotechnology and education.

Council Director Hackwood is also an award-winning professor of electrical engineering at UC Riverside, specializing in multimedia technologies, distributed asynchronous signal processing and cellular robot systems. Co-editor and co-founder of the Journal of Robotic Systems, she has worked extensively with industry, academic and government partnerships in transferring technology from research to manufacturing and is active in regional and state economic development.

The biennial Baker Forum was established by the Cal Poly President´s Cabinet on the occasion of the 20th year of service to Cal Poly by Baker and his wife, Carly, to further the dialogue on critical public policy issues facing the nation and higher education. It gives particular attention to the special social and economic roles and responsibilities of polytechnic and science and technology universities.

More information about the Baker Forum is available on the World Wide Web at www.bakerforum.calpoly.edu and by phone at (805) 756-6553.


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