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STEM is where the jobs are

STEM is and will be where the jobs are, according to a government assessment.

The good news in the Dayton area is that educators are producing students ready for STEM fields, with steady growth in undergraduate STEM degrees in the past few years.

The U.S. had nearly 8.6 million science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs in 2015; and from 2014 to 2024, it will add more than 2.6 million STEM openings, according to a 2017 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

STEM jobs grew by 10.5 percent from 2009 to 2015 — double the pace of non-STEM jobs, which saw 5.2 percent net growth, the report says.

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Between 2014 and 2024, the U.S. will need to fill over 2.6 million STEM job openings.

Beyond the opportunities, STEM pay is good. According to the report, 93 out of 100 STEM occupations had wages “significantly above” the national average; the average STEM wage was $87,570, compared to an average of $45,700 for non-STEM occupations.

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Sean Joseph Creighton, president of the Kettering-based Southwestern Ohio Council of Higher Education, said that demand for STEM-qualified workers is felt locally.

“Absolutely we’re seeing definite growth in this area, and I feel like we’ve been seeing it for a while,” he said.

SOCHE — a consortium of 23 colleges and universities — has invested in scholarship programs, regional STEM schools, efforts to build interest among students and training for teachers, Creighton said.

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In our region, STEM is really important because of the large cluster of advanced manufacturing and aerospace companies, he said.

Locally, the area is graduating more students in STEM fields, Creighton said.

According to SOCHE, 2,368 undergraduate STEM degrees were awarded locally in 2016, above the 2,105 awarded in 2015 — which itself was well above the 1,195 degrees awarded in 2014.

“There has been a lot more time and attention and coaching in those areas,” he said.

However, the U.S. Department of Education found that nationally only 16 percent of high school seniors are proficient in math and interested in a STEM career.

Monica Eaton-Cardone, an IT executive focusing nationally in risk management and fraud prevention, advocates for STEM education.

“Schools need to take a more comprehensive and creative approach to STEM education, with relevant training for teachers at all grade levels and rigorous efforts to engage students in these subjects,” Eaton-Cardone said. “It’s also important to give pupils — especially girls — a better understanding of STEM applications and role models.”

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