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  • Pam Ray

The Link Between Education & Future Jobs May Be a Program Called STEM

My recent columns addressed the issue of what type of jobs will make up our future economy—including a focus on STEM skills (science, technology, engineering, and math), and the prerequisite education necessary to pursue those careers.

In a recent keynote presentation to the Northern Virginia chapter of Girls in Technology, I explained the importance of public policy initiatives in defining our nation’s priorities and in determining where our resources are invested.

I believe that among the many failings brought on by the current disconnect between Washington DC and our nation’s economic needs is the lack of a strategic link between our education system and future job markets. I attribute this to a lack of national leadership.

The good news is that this important economic link is being recognized at the local and regional level by groups like the Girls in Technology Mentor-Protégé Program, which is actively promoting the critical link between our students’ educational choices and the jobs opportunities that they will have in the coming years.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

A recent inventory by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, included 252 STEM programs in 13 agencies, which collectively cost $3.5 billion.

In the coming years, the Obama White House plans to release a comprehensive Strategic STEM Education Plan for all federal agencies. Click here to view the entire plan.

What is the outlook for potential STEM careers?

Consider this data from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics & Statistics Administration:

  • STEM-skilled jobs grew three times faster than non-STEM jobs over the past 10 years.

  • STEM-related occupations between 2008 and 2018 are projected to grow by 17 percent compared to just 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM occupations.

  • STEM occupations command higher wages, earning 26 percent more than non-STEM counterparts.

  • STEM degree holders enjoy higher earnings, regardless of whether they work in STEM or non-STEM occupations.

There are some alarming findings.

According to Drexel University’s Center for Labor Markets & Policy, there is a collapse of the labor market for 16-24 year olds who will be ready to take on these jobs. Analysts attribute this to slow or no job growth, competition with older workers who can’t afford to leave the workforce, and the lack of concrete career or trades pathways that connect educational choices to employment opportunities.

While the old American dream was to own a home, the new American dream may be to have a good job.

“The highest growing number of jobs is in the technology field, and there is more demand for those jobs than there is supply,” according to Dr. Alicia Abella, who was quoted in the Oct. 11 issue of U.S. News & World Report. “We’re going to need 800,000 more (US) jobs by 2018 in computer technology alone. In the last three years, we’ve only graduated 24,000 in those sectors and that’s not nearly enough,” said Abella, who is executive director for the Innovative Services Research Department at AT&T.

The Bottom Line

Keep spreading the word to your kids, teachers, communities, and elected officials that the linkage between education, job markets, and US competitiveness is critically important to the prosperous future we want for our children and grandchildren.

About Pam Ray

Ray has more than three decades of in-depth experience in policy and politics, with expertise in congressional budget / appropriations and federal grant programs. Her policy experience includes housing and community development, housing finance, transit / transportation, taxes, and trade. With a focus on bridging the knowledge gap between elected officials and their constituents, Ray has achieved success in her own government relations business for 15 years and for elected officials in the U.S. Senate; U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs (1989-95); and the NYS Senate-Federal Affairs Office (1986-1989).

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