This is a guest post by Diane Bell McKoy, president and CEO of Associated Black Charities
Many growing employers across the Baltimore region are struggling to find workers to fill technical and demanding positions that require skills in STEM-related areas. And we know that a background in science, technology, engineering or mathematics – the STEM subjects – can open up a range of promising and rewarding career opportunities.
"The purpose of the study is to develop strategies to increase the talent pipeline of workers with STEM skills and experience and to remove barriers that keep many local residents from beginning STEM careers."
What is less well-known is that there are sub-bachelor degree opportunities in STEM fields; opportunities that will create access for both businesses -- that need 21st century-ready workers -- and for individuals who do not have college degrees but who are willing to learn and to step into growth-oriented careers.
For these reasons, Associated Black Charities is excited about a partnership with the Greater Baltimore Committee in conducting a study on STEM Career Pathways in the Baltimore region for adults who have only a high school diploma. The purpose of the study is to develop strategies to increase the talent pipeline of workers with STEM skills and experience and to remove barriers that keep many local residents from beginning STEM careers. The specific goals of the study are to:
- Assess human resource needs and opportunities within STEM-related occupations.
- Identify entry-level positions that progress into middle-skilled STEM occupations.
- Learn the minimum experience and education requirements needed for entry-level STEM occupations.
Learn about specialized skills that are needed for certain STEM occupations, including key certifications, credentials or experience.
Define the core competencies and key characteristics of a talent pipeline that would be attractive to employers.
In 2013 the Brookings Institute produced an encouraging study focused on sub-bachelor’s degree programs in the STEM career sector. Key findings from the report, which describes a “hidden and unheralded STEM economy,” state:
- Fifty percent of STEM jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree, and blue collar and technical jobs significantly contribute to many STEM sub-sectors.
- Sub-bachelor STEM jobs range from entry-level to middle-skilled jobs that pay a family-supporting wage.
- Non-degree STEM workers have an unemployment rate of 2.2 percentage points below non-STEM workers and earn wages 64 percent higher.
We understand the huge potential this sector has for family-supporting wages for adults with a high school diploma along with the essential critical-thinking skills necessary for success in this sector. This Brookings study opened the door to a tremendous opportunity for the Baltimore region, identified in the report as a top-10 sub-bachelor STEM economic environment.
Specifically, the Baltimore region not only has key STEM industry leaders, but also hosts a broader base of employers that have entry-level, to mid-skilled STEM occupations that are below the bachelor-degree level.
This study – along with a report by the Opportunity Collaborative, which identified the technology sector as a growth sector for middle-skilled workers -- was one of the “door openings” for ABC in understanding the core and valuable role we can play in helping grow the local economy by understanding and then connecting persons of color to these opportunities.
The opportunities surfaced by this study – and their implementation -- become a win-win for Baltimore and region businesses that are looking for qualified workers; for workers who are looking for the benefits that a successful, stable career will give to themselves and their families; and for communities that will be strengthened by both.