BEAVERCREEK — Ohio is facing a growing demand for individuals pursuing or holding a degree within a STEM-related field such as aerospace and defense. However, not enough workers are currently being produced to fill the demand – something that professional development center executive director at Wright State University Dr. Cassie Barlow hopes to change.
At a recent talk she gave at the Beavercreek Golf Club during a meeting hosted by the Beavercreek Chamber of Commerce, she emphasized workforce development.
“Many might think we’re in a race for the best nuclear weapon, or the best fighter jet or the best technology,” Barlow said. “In the 21st century, what we’re in the race for is the best minds, the best innovative minds … I would argue that we’ve got to be more deliberate than we are today.”
Ohio will stand as the 11 in the nation in terms of STEM job availability, with 274,000 prospects open by 2018.
Of the 66,000 bachelor degrees awarded annually within the state, 15,000 are related to STEM; of the 35,000 associates degrees earned each year, 11,000 are within the STEM discipline. Fewer than 40 percent of students choose and follow through with a STEM-related degree, according to Barlow.
“We’re not where we need to be,” she said. “We need to continue to move forward and encourage more kids to study STEM and stay in Ohio.”
The United States currently stands as the 13 country in the world regarding 24-year-olds holding engineering degrees, falling 10 spots since 1975; 26 percent of STEM degree holders 50-years-old and elder, while 40 percent of doctoral degree holders in STEM fields are 50-years-old and elder.
The IT field, ranging from certification to professional degrees, will face a highest amount of growth within STEM over the next few years, while the UAS market is forecasted to double within a decade. The aerospace and defense field grows 20 percent annually, increasing by more than 7,000 jobs over the next 10 years.
“Those students (pursuing engineering degrees) are our pipeline,” Barlow said. “That’s no secret – the industry is continuing to grow, and we need STEM workers … There’s just not enough students selecting STEM careers across the United States, and selecting to stay in STEM for the longterm. We really need to move the ball forward in getting more kids to study STEM.”
Barlow’s call to action includes encouraging children to pursue STEM careers, and making them aware of what opportunities are out there. Every student in Ohio, beginning in fifth grade, will have an annual “touch point” within the Ohio Means Jobs system, in which they will be presented with information regarding career paths and what’s available. Barlow said in doing so, Ohio is moving forward in comparison to other states in the nation.
“Why do I like to go out and talk to people about this stuff? Because I believe that it’s not just [me] who is going to solve this problem – it’s everyone,” Barlow said. “It’s demanding that we have a good education system. It’s everyone helping kids connect with mentors that can get them into fields that are a good match for them, and talking to kids about the future and where the jobs are … it’s incumbent on all of us to help our kids get into jobs where we really need to be, and also to encourage more math and science teachers our kids get to those well-paying [positions] and jobs that are good for our region.”
Reach Whitney Vickers by calling her directly at 937-502-4532, or by following her, @wnvickers, on Twitter.