Select high school student ambassadors from the 2015 Undersea Technology Apprenticeship Program were invited by the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance (SENEDIA) to attend the second annual Defense Innovation Days conference in Newport, RI. Exposure to and awareness of the various high skill, high wage, high demand jobs of the defense industry, could be a career changer for these innovative young minds.
Over the course of the three-day event, national leaders from the Department of Defense, industry, and Congress engaged in discussions delving into innovation from the technology, cybersecurity, and unmanned systems perspectives.
The highlight of the students’ visit was attending the “Innovation from the Unmanned Vehicle Perspective” panel discussion. By providing insight into just a small segment of the industry connected to their hands-on, three week long project, the students were able to learn about real world applications of the technology they developed. Learning about the breakneck pace at which innovative new technologies emerge in this quickly evolving field, the students came away energized by the potential of contributing to the process. “I am so excited at the possibility of having a future opportunity to develop technologies that haven’t even been thought of yet,” said one inspired student.
The students also had the opportunity to interact with industry and business leaders in the conference exhibition area. Here the themes of teamwork, communication, critical thanking, and innovation, were repeated, regardless of the exhibitor. “We want young innovative talent. You are natives of technology. You are our future,” one exhibitor told them.
Creating opportunities for high school students to link their school work to college and fulfilling careers, especially in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), is critical to building the pipeline of graduates prepared to enter national security jobs. Our ability to engage, prepare, and inspire students to look to the defense industry upon graduation is paramount to the future of technological innovation and the continued defense of the United States.
Overall, Defense Innovation Days was once again an enormous success attracting a sold-out crowd of over 250 attendees representing more than 100 defense and national security related organizations from around the country.
The event included keynote addresses by Frank Kendall, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, and Dennis McGinn, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Energy, Installations and Environment. Other prominent speakers included Governor Gina Raimondo (RI); Senator Jack Reed (RI), Senator Christopher Murphy (CT), and Congressman Jim Langevin (RI), as well as an impressive lineup of senior military and civilian leaders from the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
Several partners to the Governor’s Workforce Board participated in the event, spotlighting many of the impressive capabilities and technologies resident in Rhode Island. These included the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association and the Composite Alliance of Rhode Island who participated as exhibitors. In addition Commerce RI also was an exhibitor highlighting Rhode Island’s new initiatives providing economic benefits to businesses relocating to RI.