January 27, 2010
By the Numbers: Job Growth in the STEM Segments
The National Public Radio series New Jobs for a New Decade is a timely follow-on to President Obama's Educate to Innovate STEM workforce development initiative. NPR reporters are exploring trends predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for the decade 2008-2018. They are diving deeper into select categories and job sectors, interviewing policymakers, analysts, and real workers.

As with all statistics, the interpretations can be either uplifting or depressing. Never mind that unforeseen events can throw off the most carefully made computations (The financial crash of 2008 was not statistically predicted but neither was the dot-com boom). Still, the BLS data represents the best crystal ball we have for helping kids choose careers.

On the downside, Harvard University labor economist Lawrence Katz said in an interview that since the onset of the recession, we have lost 7 million jobs . We would need well over 300,000 new jobs a month for four years in a row," said Katz, "to make up what we've lost in the last couple of years."

On the upside, Katz thinks the US will produce 15 million new jobs (more than twice the loss) over the coming decade, even if it takes half a decade to recover the loss. The strongest growth will be at both ends of the pay range.

Dixie Sommers of the BLS provided a top-ten list of growth occupations for the decade:

  1. Registered nurses
  2. Home Health aides
  3. Customer service reps
  4. Food preparation and service workers
  5. Personal and home care aides
  6. Retail sales persons
  7. Office clerks
  8. Accountants
  9. Nursing aides, orderlies and attendants
  10. Postsecondary teachers

Registered nurses, accountants, and postsecondary school teachers have educational roots in STEM. All of the rest are strengthened by a solid STEM education.

BLS also predicts 10.5% growth in the U.S. job market from 2008 to 2018. Some sectors stand out:

Professional and Business Services (+23.3%); Education, Health and Social Services (+18.8%); Natural Resources, Construction and Utilities (+11.9%); and Transportation/Warehousing and Government/Advocacy, both just below +10%.

All these sectors are strongly tied to STEM, as are Financial Activities (+6.8%) and Information (+3.9%). Sadly, Manufacturing—another STEM-fueled sector—is predicted to lose 9% of its job pool.

The data strongly support the Educate to Innovate initiative. More importantly, kids starting high school in 2010 can enter the job market well prepared for STEM careers before the decade is over. They will help innovate, thus driving even more growth in the job market.

January 14, 2010
Educate to Innovate: A STEM Initiative from the Educator in Chief
When President Obama launched America's new STEM workforce initiative on November 23, 2009, he gave an early holiday present to all of us who have been hoping for a nationally coordinated STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education initiative championed at the highest level of leadership.

The new initiative, Educate to Innovate, is jointly led by the U.S. private sector, government, higher education, nonprofit organizations, and scientific and engineering societies. Its goal is to reclaim America's global leadership in STEM R&D with the help of our next generation of STEM professionals—the kids in school who have not yet charted their path to a job and a career.

2010 will see five private-public partnerships emerge with strong manpower (more than 2.4 million volunteer scientists and engineers) and funding ($260 million in actual dollars and in-kind contributions).

Educate to Innovate, which will engage students outside the classroom, is a complement to the U.S. Department of Education's $4.35 billion stimulus program, "Race to the Top," which strikes at the heart of education, teaching, and learning in the classroom. Together, these programs address President Obama's three priorities:

  1. Increase STEM literacy and critical thinking skills among all students
  2. Improve the quality of math and science teaching to move U.S. student achievement from the middle to the top of the international cohort
  3. Expand STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and minorities

Educate to Innovate is heavily weighted toward broadcast communication and digital learning strategies. Time Warner Cable is working with FIRST Robotics and Coalition for Science After School on the "Connect a Million Minds" campaign. Discovery Communications is partnering with universities and federal agencies in the "Be The Future" campaign. Sesame Street's "Early STEM Literacy Initiative" features the First Lady. National STEM Game Design Competitions, meanwhile, aims to stimulate innovation in the field of digital gaming and networking.

While only one partnership under Educate to Innovate, "National Lab Day: Bringing Hands-On Learning to Every Student," comes close to even mentioning inquiry-based learning through exploration with active involvement of scientists and engineers, we hope that this essential strategy of teaching and learning will be emphasized and rewarded with the Race to the Top stimulus program.

Exciting indeed! The Educator in Chief has done the right thing. Now, let's see if the rest of us who claim to long for collaboration in STEM education field can actually measure up!