Saturday, December 16, 2017
Business

STEM skills seeping into more blue-collar jobs

AUSTIN, Texas — The walls have started to rise in Austin, forming the shell of HID Global's new $35 million manufacturing, warehousing, distribution and customer service center.

The company has begun to hire the first handful of the 276 workers it pledged to employ in exchange for $3.5 million in local and state tax incentives, although it won't start hiring in earnest until later this year.

Yet already — months before the plant has installed its first machine or produced its first security or identity-authentication card — the expectations for its employee base reflect the widespread transformation sweeping through the U.S. workforce.

A Brookings Institution study released this month reports that the number of jobs that require proficiency in science, technology, engineering or mathematics — often called the STEM fields — is much larger than previously considered.

Using a new, broader definition of STEM-related occupations, Brookings found that U.S. employers provided 26 million such jobs in 2011 — about 20 percent of the country's total nonfarm job base that year, the report said.

HID Global expects about 30 percent of its Austin factory jobs will require some sort of post-high school education, said general manager Jason Bohrer, and virtually all of those positions will require STEM skills.

"The tools have changed" as more and more information technology infrastructure is integrated into the manufacturing line, Bohrer said. "Some of the applications you might run on the factory floor have definitely increased in scope and complexity over the years."

To date, STEM-related careers have often been thought of in white-collar terms — the professor, computer programmer, engineer or accountant. But today, STEM skills are seeping into a much broader range of occupations, including many traditionally considered blue-collar.

"The definition of being an auto mechanic is a hell of a lot different now than it was 30 years ago," said Jon Hockenyos, principal of TXP, an Austin-based economic consulting firm.

Machinists in today's factories often rely on a range of specialized computer programming and math skills to operate modern manufacturing equipment. Those skills, the Brookings report argues, are every bit as STEM-intensive as those used by, say, a website programmer — and should be counted as such.

That ongoing diffusion of skills has sparked dozens of economic and workforce studies around the country, as labor researchers grapple to get a clearer view of how jobs are changing. It has also caught the attention of policymakers, educators and employers, hundreds of whom gathered in Austin last week for the U.S. News and World Report STEM Solutions annual conference.

The conference brought together national, state and local education and employment experts to share ideas and discuss how to better equip the country's workforce for the rising number of jobs that require STEM skills.

U.S. News started the conference two years ago after noticing the rising call for STEM education in both its education and workforce coverage, said editor Brian Kelly.

Kelly and his colleagues found that many educators, policymakers and employers are keenly aware of the ongoing increase in STEM-related occupations, but much of the public remains oblivious to the shift. The country hasn't had a seminal phenomenon that has jolted the public awareness — as Sputnik did to spark the space race in the late 1950s and 1960s.

"We have a slow-motion crisis," he said. "The world is becoming more technological, but there's no Sputnik moment. You have 8 percent unemployment and 3 million open jobs — that seems like a crisis to me."

Yet it hasn't sparked public urgency. The Brookings report, titled "The Hidden STEM Economy," suggests the country has overlooked millions of jobs that pay well by focusing most of its energies on STEM-related careers that require at least a four-year degree.

"The overemphasis on four-year and higher degrees as the only route to a STEM career has neglected cheaper and more widely available pathways through community colleges and even technical high schools," the report said. "This neglect is all the more nonsensical given that roughly half of students who earn four-year STEM degrees start their education at community colleges."

Among its various recommendations, the Brookings report urged a heightened focus on education, including more attention to STEM fields in elementary and high schools, as well as the expansion of sub-bachelor's degree programs in STEM fields.

Comments
Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

When Brenda Terry was 16 and living in St. Louis, she was a hostess and food runner at a sports bar where female employees wore cute, little cheerleading skirts. One night, she said, a patron grabbed her crotch. She ran to her management team and the...
Published: 12/15/17
Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Shrieks of laughter echoed off the walls of the hospital as Thunder the mini pig flopped onto his side and the children huddled around him, scratching his pink, hairy belly. He and his wet-nosed partner, Bolt, drew patients in wheelchairs and bandage...
Published: 12/15/17
Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

LARGO — Eight months after paying $10.15 million for the office building that houses IT services company Vology, a New York company is suing the Pinellas County Property Appraiser and Florida Department of Revenue contending its $5.5 million tax asse...
Published: 12/15/17
Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

TAMPA — For the half of the year that Harry Nichols lives in Oldsmar, he plays 18 holes several times a month at Rocky Point Golf Course. On a good day, Nichols said he shoots close to par on the Dana Shores course. And if he’s really lucky, it’ll on...
Published: 12/15/17
Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

In 2010, Florida was in the throes of an unprecedented housing crisis. One in every eight homes was in some stage of foreclosure. Today, the foreclosure rate is one in every 83. Because of that enormous drop, Florida’s Hardest Hit Fund will s...
Published: 12/15/17
Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

By ELAINE KURTENBACHTOKYO — Global inequality has stabilized at high levels in recent years, a report said Friday, despite gains among the poor in China and much milder disparities in incomes and wealth in Western Europe. The World Inequality Report ...
Published: 12/15/17
How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

Associated Press NEW YORK — After years of tremors, the earthquake that had long been predicted finally shook Hollywood. Disney’s deal to purchase most of 21st Century Fox ends the era of the "Big Six" major movie studios, toppling one ...
Published: 12/15/17
St. Petersburg’s Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement set to be complete in 2019

St. Petersburg’s Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement set to be complete in 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, under construction since 2015, is scheduled to be complete by the summer of 2019.The five-story, 137,100-square-foot building will house businessman and collector Rudy Ciccarello’s...
Published: 12/15/17
Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Today is the day that open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act will close for most people. But those affected by the slew of hurricanes that pummelled Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and other states earlier this year can take advantage of a two-week ...
Published: 12/15/17
Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

A record-breaking number of Americans are expected to travel this holiday season.The American Automobile Association projects that 107.3 million Americans will pack their bags and travel more than 50 miles by planes, trains, automobiles and other mod...
Published: 12/14/17