Public Policy Forum Blog

The future is today for STEM-savvy workers

The Forum's latest report, on the need for science and math skills in the state's future workforce (which was reported in Sunday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and followed-up with an editorial today) highlights opportunities for the state to strengthen policies regarding science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in K-12.

And while our findings focus on forecasted workforce needs, today's New York Times reports that the few occupations where the current recession has had only a glancing blow are those requiring skills in math, science, or technology:

[The Conference Board's] monthly count of online job openings — listed on and more than 1,200 similar Web sites — breaks the advertised openings into 22 broad occupational categories and compares those with the number of unemployed whose last job, according to the bureau, was in each category. In only four of the categories — architecture and engineering, the physical sciences, computer and mathematical science, and health care — were the unemployed equal to or fewer than the listed job openings. There were, in sum, 1.09 million listed openings and only 582,700 unemployed people presumably available to fill them.

In addition, like the Forum's report, the Times article does not limit its observations to just those jobs requiring a college degree. The article notes that "middle skills" jobs are those hardest to fill right now, in the midst of the recession; for example, welders, electrical linemen, and respiratory technicians. These jobs require education, but often not more than high school, along with some training and on-the-job experience.

For today's high school graduates, being adequately prepared to step into a training program could mean not only finding a job when others cannot--it could mean the difference between thriving and surviving as their future arrives.

Anneliese Dickman