While there is a dearth of diversity in Silicon Valley, high-tech industries in the U.S. are expanding at such a rapid clip that employers are having trouble finding enough talent in the U.S. to meet their needs. One conference over the weekend aimed to encourage young Latinos and Latinas to be a part of the solution to both problems, by setting their sights early on 21st century career paths.

The problem of diversity in technology and the shortage of qualified workers are interrelated.

As Latin Post recently reported, according to the White House, there are approximately 5 million unfilled jobs in the U.S. right now. More than half a million of those are in information technology -- more than any other major occupation. At the same time, only 8 percent of STEM degrees go to Latino graduates, and they represent about the same proportion of STEM professionals in the U.S.

At the convergence of the trends to diversify the technology workforce and the shortage of high skilled U.S. labor is STEM education -- or training in the high-demand fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

And STEM education was at the center of a conference for young Latinos in Washington D.C. this weekend, as NBC News reported. The Nuestro Futuro Latino Education Conference gathered students from the Washington area on Nov. 20 in the nation's capital to get them fired up about the lucrative and wide opportunities that getting a STEM education can bring.

Latino students as young as eighth graders got a chance to speak with executives and other professionals in high tech fields, providing a sneak peak into careers available by specializing in STEM fields after high school.

The sessions provided a little "myth busting" about Latinos in STEM fields as well. "Unfortunately there is a stereotype that Latinos aren't going to have STEM jobs," said Jeff Curry, project manager at Cisco Systems, to NBC.

Those stereotypes and myths are partially a result of the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley, the long-running disparity between non-Hispanics and Latinos in STEM education, and the sluggish pace of change in the educational pipeline to include more underrepresented minorities.

"So it's real critical that we show kids the potential they have and the opportunities there are to excel," added Curry. "The future for Latinos in STEM is huge. It is growing by leaps and bounds and there are so many careers available."

Part of the point of the conference was to show young Latinos and Latinas the opportunities available to STEM graduates through example. Vice President of utility company National Grid Nelson Pérez was one of the panelists at the event.

"When I was growing up, I didn't have the opportunity to hear from people who were doing things beyond the traditional jobs that I grew up with. My parents were blue collar," said Pérez, adding, "STEM fields are vast and wide. I work with engineers. I'm not one, but I understand where they're coming from... STEM offers the opportunity to work with people with many different skill sets."

MicroTech (a huge technology company founded and run by Tony Jimenez) sent its VP José Niño to speak at the event. He echoed Pérez's sentiments, saying, "Opportunities in STEM means that we are at a perfect time to advance the dreams of our parents, when many of them first came to this country for us to reach other types of careers and move forward."

White House Senior Deupty Director of Public Engagmenet, Julie Chávez Rodríguez, also spoke at the conference, touting President Obama's efforts to boost STEM career opportunities for Latinos and Latinas. "This is something we prioritize. We know that jobs in the future are going to require our Latino and Latina students to have the knowledge and the skill sets that 21st century jobs will require."

The Nuestro Futuro Latino Education Conference, co-sponsored by Latino Magazine, wrapped up its sixth annual convention in Washington D.C. over the weekend.