“What’s really fabulous about our programs is we work directly with our industry advisory committees,” said Belmont. “Our students do get good jobs with associate degrees or certificates, and some continue on at night to get their bachelor’s” at MDC.
It pays to have STEM skills. In South Florida, STEM workers with a bachelor’s degree or more education earn an average salary of $82,652, compared to $65,272 for non-STEM workers with at least a bachelor’s, according to the Brookings study. Sub-bachelor’s level STEM jobs also provide relatively high wages, paying $51,109 on average compared to $30,178 for similar level sub-bachelor degree workers outside of STEM fields.
As expected, tech hubs such as Silicon Valley, Seattle, Boston and Washington D.C. scored well in the report for STEM jobs at all levels. Yet Florida’s Palm Bay-Titusville-Melbourne region ranked highly because of its significant aerospace presence; and energy-oriented metro areas like Houston also ranked highly.
The current narrow definition of STEM has serious funding implications, according to the study’s authors. Of the $4.3 billion spent by the federal government on STEM education, only one-fifth goes to support education or training below the bachelor’s degree level. Such limited funding makes it harder for young workers to receive training in STEM careers like technicians and craft trades and for older adults to sharpen their skills through continuing education, the study said.
“There’s much to be said for the four-year degree, that’s great, but two-thirds of young people are not completing bachelor’s degrees,” said Rothwell. “Will they be condemned to low-paying, low skill, low growth jobs or is there a career path for decent paying jobs? We think there are a lot of jobs for them in the STEM economy.”
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