Raytheon Technologies employees giving high-fives

How Raytheon Technologies has scaled up its social responsibility work

The company’s Connect Up initiative is supporting food security, STEM education and military veterans

The global scale of Raytheon Technologies is paying off in ways that go far beyond the company’s research-and-development and technology portfolio.

Just as the company has put 60,000 engineers and $7.5 billion in R&D funding toward solving some of the hardest problems in aerospace and defense, it is also using its resources and extensive experience in social responsibility initiatives to address systemic problems in communities around the world. The newest and clearest evidence of that scaled-up investment is Connect Up, a 10-year, $500 million social impact plan that aims to lift up underserved communities through:

  • Building a more diverse technology workforce by improving STEM education opportunities for women and students of color.
  • Helping military veterans transition to successful civilian careers and supporting their families through education opportunities.
  • Addressing social equity problems such as basic infrastructure and food insecurity in the U.S.

“Raytheon Technologies is one of only a few companies in the world that could have taken on this initiative at this scale,” said Pam Erickson, the company’s chief communications officer and head of corporate social responsibility. “Our resources and our legacy of work with partner organizations have multiplied our ability – and our responsibility – to advance this important work for generations to come.”

A concentration of resources

Connect Up focuses the resources of Raytheon Technologies and its businesses – Collins Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney, Raytheon Intelligence & Space and Raytheon Missiles & Defense – on a group of partners, each chosen for its focus and track record of success. The idea is to concentrate both funding and volunteer hours across the company’s various units toward common, long-term goals.

One example is Raytheon Technologies’ new partnership with SMASH, a science, technology, engineering and math program dedicated to students of color. Through Connect Up, Raytheon Technologies has entered a five-year partnership with SMASH that will sponsor more than 600 high school and early college students in two programs:

  • SMASH Academy, a three-year college prep program that places high school freshmen in residential summer programs at top-tier schools including Morehouse College, Northeastern University and the University of Michigan.
  • SMASH Rising, in which Raytheon Technologies will extend paid five-week pre-internship opportunities to college freshmen and sophomores.

That is far more effective – and more likely to achieve its goals – than a patchwork of one-time donations or volunteer events, Erickson said.

“Our programs have a very intentional design with each of the partners,” she said.

For employees, more ways to volunteer

Connect Up has redefined corporate social responsibility across the company.

Employees at Raytheon Technologies’ defense-focused businesses, whose efforts have historically emphasized support for military veterans and families, now have volunteering opportunities through organizations like Engineers Without Borders, where experts can help communities around the world build infrastructure and meet basic human needs.

For the company’s aviation-focused businesses, the new initiative connects them with organizations such as Student Veterans of America and The Mission Continues, which help military veterans transition to civilian life through continuing education and community service, respectively.

Though the program centralizes much of Raytheon Technologies’ corporate responsibility work, it still leaves a good measure of flexibility for its businesses to meet their local objectives.

“The strategy we’re deploying across the organization does allow for local customization of these partners and programs,” Erickson said. “If Girls Who Code is the signature partner, it might be that in South Florida, the approach looks different from how it looks in Colorado Springs. We might focus on afterschool programs in South Florida and the alumni network in Colorado Springs.”

Working with one partner organization in a variety of ways also gives employees flexibility to participate however they’re able. With Girls Who Code, for example, that could mean mentoring a student for months at a time, or it might just mean dropping into an online class for an hour.

“We’re meeting our employees where they are,” said Lori Strom, who coordinates Raytheon Technologies’ volunteer efforts with Girls Who Code. “Each of us has these unique talents we bring to the table, but we don’t always get a chance to share them at our day jobs. Girls Who Code is another chance to bring out the skills we have.”

Building for the future

There’s a clear business reason Raytheon Technologies is so invested in STEM education: The company wants those students to work there someday. That’s part of what motivates Christine Gemelli to volunteer with three partner organizations – NAF, Girls who Code and the Invention Convention.

“They’re going to be my colleagues going forward. That’s what gets me excited,” said Gemelli, a former teacher who now works in the company’s Technology & Global Engineering organization. “I just love seeing students do something they’ve never done before and get excited about it. Anyone who wants to be in a STEM field can do it, if you give them the opportunity.”

In addition to volunteering herself, she also helps experts across the company find the right volunteering opportunities to suit their skills. One particularly rewarding event, she said, is the annual Invention Convention, where students from kindergarten through high school present their solutions to real-world problems.

“It’s always about helping someone make their life easier – grandma or grandpa, a sister, a brother, a friend,” she said, recalling one student who came up with a way for his grandmother to move her walker more easily across the floor. “They’re not trying to make an invention that’s going to win a million dollars. It’s really simple: They see what’s going on in their world, their community, and they do what they can do to help.”