In the post-recession economy, jobs that require skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are in high demand compared to other jobs, according to a report released Tuesday by the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

Many metros, including the Tulsa area, are having to advertise for longer periods to fill these positions, which are also referred to as STEM jobs, because of the difficulty in finding qualified workers.

In its first metro analysis of job openings and hiring difficulty, Brookings finds that companies across the country are facing a growing challenge to fill STEM positions, despite high salary offers, according to the report.

The supply of STEM workers, which includes blue collar, craft and professional occupations, is not keeping up with demand.

For its report — “Still Searching: Job Vacancies and STEM Skills” — Brookings used a database produced by Burning Glass, a leader in labor market analytics. It looked at job vacancies advertised in every U.S. metro area on company websites in 2013, which included a total of 3.3 million advertisements across 52,000 companies.

Brookings, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, found that advertisements for STEM jobs run more than twice as long than those for all other types of jobs. Those that require a doctorate or professional degree are advertised an average of 50 days, compared to 33 days for all other vacancies, the report states.

According to Brookings, the Tulsa metro had 4,051 ads for job openings in the 2013 first quarter, of which 37 percent required STEM skills. The report said 25 percent of those ads required STEM skills and at least a bachelor’s degree.

The study also found that some STEM jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree are harder to fill than some professional non-STEM jobs that do require a bachelor’s degree, said Jonathan Rothwell, associate fellow at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. For example, jobs that require a high school or associate’s degree for installation maintenance and repair occupations on average take 39 days to fill compared to 37 days for non-STEM jobs that require a bachelor’s degree.

“Overall, in Tulsa the hiring difficulty isn’t as severe as it is in a lot of the metropolitan areas, but at the same time, for health care practitioners, architects and engineering occupations, in particular, there does seem to be difficulty in hiring,” Rothwell said.

In the Tulsa metro, the average duration of STEM ads for occupations requiring at least a bachelor’s degree was 34 days compared to 30 days for non-STEM ads.
Tulsa ranked 70th out of the 100 largest metros for its average duration of STEM openings, according to the report.

Overall, the average number of days for advertising openings in the Tulsa area was 30.1 days, according to Brookings.

The average market value of skills requested on each STEM ad in the Tulsa metro was $61,058 versus $52,633 for a non-STEM job that is advertised, according to the study.

In the Oklahoma City area, ads for non-STEM jobs typically requiring at least a bachelor’s degree ran 36 days versus 40 for STEM ads requiring at least a bachelor’s degree.

The average number of days for Oklahoma City STEM ads was 38.

Jobs in metro areas that take longer to fill are also those that pay better and require more valuable skills. The average value of skills advertised in San Jose, California, were the highest in the country. It was followed by San Francisco and Washington D.C., as well as Austin, Texas; New York; and Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina, according to the report.

“It’s particularly important for those who are unemployed to have a sense of their job prospects in their given field,” Rothwell said.

Nationally, there are roughly 10 unemployed workers vying for one job opening in office administration or construction. “But for the STEM positions, it’s often the case that there are more job openings than there are unemployed workers. Your chances of landing a job are much greater if you have these STEM jobs,” Rothwell said.

Metro areas also benefit when they have a highly educated, STEM workforce. STEM workers earn higher wages, allowing them to spend more at restaurants, movies and retailers, which, in turn, helps lower unemployment and supports workers in those occupations, he added.

“Nationally, we’re on track to need about 3 million STEM workers by 2020, and the way we’re going we will get a million of those. So, there’s a huge, almost national crisis around this,” said Xan Black, program manager of Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance.

Launched in December, TRSA aims to help build and stimulate STEM activities in the Tulsa Region to create a true “STEM education ecosystem” from pre-kindergarten to high school students. The Oklahoma Innovation Institute is the parent organization of TRSA.

Oklahoma has many innovative industries that are heavily STEM-based, said Black, pointing to energy, aerospace, agriculture, information technology, finance and health care.

“Every job that you can imagine is becoming exponentially more STEM-oriented, even those that you might not think of as STEM-based,” she said.

According to local estimates, Tulsa will need at least an additional 4,000 STEM workers by 2018, Black said.

“If you look nationwide, the average stem job earns about twice what our average income is in Oklahoma,” Black said.

She noted that students’ interest in STEM jobs dramatically increases if they know someone who has a STEM job.

“What we need are innovative, creative, critical thinkers and problem solvers, and that’s precisely what STEM education does — makes world-class problem solvers out of our students,” Black said.

Laurie Winslow
Tulsa World
July 1, 2014
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