The Brookings Institute, a non-profit, independent research organization, recently released an analysis of workforce and employment data. Among many findings, several mirror trends we are seeing today in Mississippi and regional markets, including the overriding argument that the demand for workers with high STEM skills is growing faster than that for those with any other skill set. As a result of this increased demand, Brookings maintains, “it follows that increased training in STEM fields like computer science and medicine will ease hiring for employers and lead to high-paying career paths for workers.”[i]
In 2010, companies nationwide reported having difficulty filling 14% of positions that required STEM training. From 2011-2012, that number skyrocketed to 50%. Though it has since hit a plateau around 40%, companies are still at a loss to find appropriately skilled workers. An aging manufacturing workforce further complicates the matter, with the average skilled laborer around 56 years old.[ii]
So aside from national averages, what does that look like in Mississippi, or more specifically, the Metro Jackson area? Brookings released those findings, too:
- Employers were scrambling to fill 2,266 jobs in Q1 of 2013 alone.
- The average salary for these positions was $55,730—around $28/hour.
- 12.7% of the jobs only required a high school diploma.
- 21.1% of the jobs required a certificate or equivalent, minimal college education.
- 33.8% of the jobs required a STEM-intensive degree, such as engineering.
- The 2nd highest paid positions in demand were computer and math positions at $66,721—more than business, management, and finance positions.
- The 5th most in-demand positions were engineers at $60,862—besting healthcare practitioners and sales positions.
- All production jobs (i.e., technicians, welders, pipefitters, etc.) came in at #13 and $51,578—more than office administrators, farmers, and construction workers.
Bottom line: STEM-intensive jobs are at the top of the most in-demand and highest-paying occupations in the state of Mississippi, more than many other traditional careers. If we are to see growth in our statewide economy and individual standards of living, then it is time to give these professional careers the attention and consideration they merit.