By Jose Ivan Cazares
Director of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) projects Dr. Armando Rivera will receive the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation (HENAAC) Educator of the Year award alongside STEM professionals from industry, military, government and academic institutions on Oct. 16.
Great Minds in STEM will host the 27th annual HENAAC STEM Career Conference in Pasadena. Great Minds in STEM is a non-profit organization focused on educational awareness programs for students. The awards are presented to the most accomplished and promising professionals, who could serve as role models for the next generation.
Rivera was nominated by Dean of Academic Affairs Paul De La Cerda, who is a former recipient. He also received support from President Marvin Martinez, as well as the East Los Angeles College’s partner institutions California State University Los Angeles, University of California Los Angeles and the University of Southern California.
“I’m hoping that me receiving this award will benefit ELAC,” Rivera said. The HENAAC award is prestigious, and proposals made by Rivera will receive more support because of that.
De La Cerada believes that this will help ELAC create partnerships with corporations, and other institutions. “We have a conservative budget, compared to four year universities,” He also said that while elac has a relationship with corporations like Edison International, ELAC is always looking for new opportunities that could benefit students. “I want students to see the benefits and applications of math. I think most students believe they will never use it in the real world,” said Rivera. He elaborated by saying that Mathematics are essential in fields like Chemistry and Engineering. ”I chose to study chemistry, because I like to study the relationship between matter and energy.”
“Students need to see that math isn’t scary. They just need the right mentors. Rivera is one of those mentors,” De La Cerda said. Corporate partnerships could also help students considering entry level jobs in fields like engineering. Companies like Boeing hire skilled students and help with their education said De La Cerda. The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor projects a four percent increase in job opportunities for electrical engineers from 2012 to 2022. It projects a five percent increase in the field of mechanical engineering, as well as a 20 percent increase in the field of civil engineering.
Rivera believes that he has been able to achieve as much as he has because he had good mentors. “I want to do the same for them (students).” Both Rivera and De La Cerda believe that the HENAAC award Rivera received will attract corporate sponsorships. These sponsorships would not only benefit students aiming for a bachelor’s in a STEM field, but also students looking into learning a trade skill. According to the Brookings Institution, 20 percent of jobs in the United States are in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, as of 2011. That’s 26 million STEM jobs. Half of those jobs are open to people without a bachelor’s degree, according to the same study.
The Brookings Institution calls this “The Hidden STEM Economy.” Half of all STEM jobs are in manufacturing, healthcare and construction industries. Jobs in installation, maintenance and repair make up twelve percent . “Entry level jobs can encourage students to further their education. We want to encourage entrepreneurship,” De La Cerada said. De La Cerda received a patent for an electronic pet door he invented. He later sold his invention and uses it as an example to encourage his students. ”I tell students everyone learns differently. It might take you five years to learn what someone learns in one, but you could do whatever you set your mind to,” Rivera said.