How Investing in STEM Can Help Local Economies

There’s no question about it:

STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, is the way of the future. It’s where the jobs are, and where America needs to be to remain competitive in a global economy. And everyone from the federal government to top tech companies realizes that we need to invest in STEM to get ahead.

What most people don’t realize? While investing in STEM is important on a national level, it’s also important – and incredibly beneficial – on a local level. Investing in STEM provides an opportunity to boost local economies in areas of need. The result of competitive STEM education? A highly skilled workforce that’s highly attractive for companies considering investing in cities and towns across the country. The fact of the matter is that investing in STEM means more jobs and a better economy.

The need for investment in STEM

Today, 9 out of 10 of the most wanted jobs are in a STEM field, including accounting, computer science, electrical and mechanical engineering, economics and finance and more. And that number is only going up: STEM occupations are projected to grow by more than 17% by 2018, 7.2% more than non-STEM jobs.

Salaries higher in STEM, too. STEM workers earn a median annual wage of nearly $76,000 – that’s more than double the median wage for workers in all other industries. Entry-level salaries in STEM are also higher than in nearly any other field. Just one example? A petroleum engineer with less than 3 years of experience can make up to $88,000 per year.

Jobs – and salaries – are constantly growing in STEM. The only issue? A relative lack of qualified candidates. While there is one job for every 3.8 unemployed people in non-STEM fields, there are 1.9 positions for every unemployed person in STEM. Greater investment in STEM STEM education could change that – and boost economies for cities and towns across the country. Just think. While Silicon Valley is the hub for technology now, tech companies are always looking to expand. Google alone has dozens of data centers and offices all over the world. By investing in STEM and creating a pool of highly skilled and qualified STEM workers, towns across the country could be putting themselves at the top of that list.

STEM professionals work to find solutions for climate change, cures for deadly diseases, new and innovative technologies, and more. They also help to boost the economies of the areas in which they live. That’s why it’s vital for investment in STEM to occur at every level, from the smallest towns to the biggest cities.

The Future of STEM

One thing is certain: STEM is growing, and it’s growing fast. As James Brown, executive director of the STEM Education Coalition says, “The future of the economy is in STEM.” If local economies want to succeed in the future, they need to invest – and invest heavily – in STEM education.

President Obama recently set a goal to add 1 million STEM graduates in the next decade. To reach that goal – and to reap the benefits – local communities will need to commit to investing in STEM.

Abby Perkins is Editor in Chief at Talent Tribune, a data-driven blog dedicated to jobs, workplace culture and HR software.

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