Workers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields play a direct role in driving economic growth. Yet, because of how the STEM economy has been defined, policymakers have mainly focused on supporting workers with at least a bachelor’s (BA) degree, overlooking a strong potential workforce of those with less than a BA. A new report from Brookings, "The Hidden STEM Economy," provides an analysis of the occupational requirements for STEM.
Here is an excerpt from the report:
"Today, there are two STEM economies. The professional STEM economy of today is closely linked to graduate school education, maintains close links with research universities, but functions mostly in the corporate sector. It plays a vital function in keeping American businesses on the cutting edge of technological development and deployment. Its workers are generally compensated extremely well.
The second STEM economy draws from high schools, workshops, vocational schools, and community colleges. These workers today are less likely to be directly involved in invention, but they are critical to the implementation of new ideas, and advise researchers on feasibility of design options, cost estimates, and other practical aspects of technological development. Skilled technicians produce, install, and repair the products and production machines patented by professional researchers, allowing firms to reach their markets, reduce product defects, create process innovations, and enhance productivity. These technicians also develop and maintain the nation’s energy supply, electrical grid, and infrastructure. Conventional wisdom holds that high-skilled, blue-collar jobs are rapidly disappearing from the American economy as a result of either displacement by machines or foreign competition. But the reality is more complex. High-skilled jobs in manufacturing and construction make up an increasingly large share of total employment, as middle-skilled jobs in those fields wane. Moreover, workers at existing STEM jobs tend to be older and will need to be replaced."