Nancy Dahlberg’s June 11 article, Miami area ranks low for share of STEM jobs, focused on a study by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program that broadens the traditional definition of STEM jobs — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The study suggests that all jobs that require a high level of knowledge in any one STEM field should be defined as such, thus upping the national share of STEM jobs from the National Science Foundation’s 4 percent to 5 percent estimate to a national total of 20 percent of jobs. By this definition, it is clear that over time, the share of jobs requiring STEM knowledge will grow because STEM knowledge is increasingly employed in even the most ordinary fields.
Given that half of STEM jobs don’t require a four-year degree, the article concludes that policymakers should afford more recognition and resources to STEM jobs that require an associate degree or less. As a member of the board of directors of the Florida Research Consortium, I am in complete agreement.
But by defining STEM economies based on comparisons with the high-value economies of “tech hubs” like Silicon Valley, the study and article miss a key part of the equation: What makes an economy higher value?
Higher performing economies are those that contain high-performing people, ideas and capital. People who are comfortable in a world of risk and who have the skills necessary to develop ideas and translate them into investable companies are at the cornerstone. The ideas they exploit are typically born of systematic research in university, government and private labs that can create entirely new industries. Capital is the lifeblood of new industries, particularly early stage capital. Seed funding helps support the invention of new technologies and the development of companies capable of transforming a region’s economy.
It should come as no surprise that a common denominator of high-performing economies is the percentage of the workforce with advanced degrees. In fact, for each percentage increase of a state’s residents with these degrees, the data suggest that Gross State Product per capita will increase by more than $1,900. Additionally, the venture capital research company CB Insights recently noted that 64 percent of companies funded by venture capitalists have at least one founder with an advanced degree.
Higher-value economies come not from adopting and exploiting existing technologies, but by creating them. With newly minted technologies come new jobs, jobs that require no degree to those needing STEM degrees from AA to Ph.D. Our policymakers should support the entire mix needed to continue the Sunshine State’s development as a higher-value economy.
Leslie J. Croland, board member, Florida Research Consortium, Miami