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STEM jobs can boost economy

Four-year degrees are not required in half of these jobs, which average $53K annually

Posted: June 14, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 14, 2013 2:00 a.m.

A research firm study finds that “STEM” jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math — which drive economic growth — are largely available to workers without a four-year college degree.

As of 2011, the non-profit Brookings Institute in Washington D.C. found that half of all STEM jobs are open to workers without college degrees and that, on average, these jobs paid $53,000 annually.

Of the $4.3 billion spent annually by the federal government on STEM education and training, however, the study reported that only one-fifth goes towards supporting sub-bachelor’s level training, while twice as much money goes toward bachelor degree required or higher level-STEM jobs.

The average earnings are 10 percent higher than jobs with similar educational requirements.

For those jobs requiring a higher level of knowledge, there were 26 million positions in 2011, representing 20 percent of all jobs, according to the Brookings Institute study.

The study also found that metropolitan areas with more STEM-related jobs perform well economically, driving job growth, employment rates, wages and exports.

Of large metro areas, San Jose and Washington, D.C., have the most STEM-based economies, Brookings reported — but, Baton Rouge, La., Birmingham, Ala, and Wichita, Kan. have among the largest share of STEM jobs in fields that do not require four-year college degrees.

Regions with more jobs in STEM fields — even those not requiring bachelor’s degrees — help boost innovation measures one-fourth to one-half as much as bachelor’s degree STEM workers, the study found.

But, community colleges are largely ignored by National Science Foundation spending – where certificate programs or associates degrees can lead to STEM related jobs.

“Policy makers and leaders can do more to foster a broader absorption of STEM knowledge to the U.S workforce and its regional economies,” the survey found.

One other benefit to supporting educational programs locally would be the “equalization” of wages in an area.

Since 1980, the U.S. economy has shifted to the point where as jobs paying very high and very low wages have replaced jobs paying moderate wages.

That reality has placed greater emphasis than ever on a college education for all, suggesting it is the only means to making middle-class wages.

But the Brookings Institute concludes differently.

“Not all workers need formal college-level skills, but they do need to master a specific body of knowledge,” it reported.




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