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Worcester 3rd In New England For Science & Tech Jobs

Thursday, June 13, 2013
Kate Nagle, GoLocalWorcester News Contributor

Worcester ranked 3rd in the region in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) jobs in a recent report by the Brookings Institute -- which noted in its report that half of all STEM jobs are available to workers without a four year degree.

"We know that there are jobs available, we know that students in high school need to be equipped with these skills," said John Brucato, Executive Dircector at the Advance Math and Science Academy Charter School in Marlboro. "What were we waiting for?"

According to Brookings, Worcester's share of workers in the STEM industries for 2011 was 20%, or roughly 53,000 jobs, which mirrors the national average of one-fifth of the workforce. The greater Boston region was highest at 23.9% followed by the greater Hartford region at 22.8%.

Ranked behind Worcester were the greater Stamford metro area at 19.5% STEM jobs, the combined Providence/New Bedford/Fall River grouping at 18.7%, and Springfield at 18.1%.

Brookings: STEM Wages Outpace Non-STEM, Regardless of College Degree

The average wage for a STEM industry job in Worcester in 2011 was $72,031, while the average non-STEM job was $41,787. For STEM workers with a college degree or higher, that jumped to $87,302 -- and for an associates degree or less, dropped to $60,113.

In contrast, the average wage for a worker with an associates' degree or less in a non-STEM industry was $35,356.

"STEM [education] helps young people integrate and directly relate not just to higher education, but the world of work in general," said Brucato. "i's a robust, eclectic curricula that leads to be a better understanding of what you do. It just doesn't apply to the STEM letters."

GoLocal spoke with Worcester-area STEM proponents as to the efforts being undertaken to prepare students for careers in related industries, whether at the college level or post-high school.

Data Courtesy of the Brooking's Institute
STEM in Focus in Worcester

"For some time, we've encouraged our staff to participate in STEM initiatives and professional development," said Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick with Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School, adding that the school would be unveiling to new science labs next week that they "self-funded."

Fitzpatrick noted that the local business community has shown its support for the work being done at the school in preparing its graduates for the workforce.

With the recent graduating class of 270 students having over 70% of graduations heading off to college, Fitzpatrick noted that through the generosity of the surrounding community, they were able to provide $2 million in assistance through scholarships.

However, Fitzpatrick noted that of the approximately 25% graduates not going on to a four year college, many had chosen to take a work/study path, and combing real-world employment with courses at local community colleges.

Source: Brookings
"Providing our students not only with STEM courses, but with real world experience, has been a critical part of the success of not only our school but the business community as well," said Fitzpatrick, noting that some students had coupled recently with Natick Labs to work on testing and development.

"Teaching science in an applied matter, having teachers work together on academic curriculum, has been critical," said Fitzpatrick. "The state of Massachusetts has been agressive in recognizing the STEM ingredients necessary to be successful not only in college but the trades, and getting that to the schools."

Sandra Mayrand with the Central Massachusetts STEM Network spoke to the level of communication among stakeholders being a reason the region has been successful in STEM education -- and jobs.

"In this region, we haven't ruled out the needs of the workforce," said Mayrand. "We recently launched the Vision Project to further connect community colleges to further workforce development. We've been furthering STEM goals for ten years now -- and our region is doing well."

Worcester was recently one of three cities selected to share a National Science Foundation award of $2.6 million for the Art of Science Learning Phase 2 grant titled, "Integrating Informal STEM and Arts-Based Learning to Foster Innovation."