Closing the STEM Skills Gap: A Regional Conversation
Last week, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber hosted a regional Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Summit which brought together stakeholders from industry, PK-12 and higher education, government, and community partners to assess the status of STEM education and workforce development within the Baton Rouge Area. Through facilitated conversations, the convening assessed the region’s current economic make up, discussed the future aspirations for diversified industry sectors, and identified existing resources that can assist in closing the skills gap in STEM occupations for the region.
Fortunate to serve as home for the STEM-rich industries of manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and IT, the Capital Region is projected to experience high occupation growth over the next year, specifically in the construction and manufacturing sectors which are predicted to grow by 16 percent. In order to achieve this growth, the Capital Region will need enough talent to fill those high-wage, high-demand jobs, some of which are currently unfilled. Through integration of increased STEM education, the Capital Region can move the needle in closing the skills gap and cultivating our region’s talent.
Below are a few key takeaways from last week’s conversation.
The Capital Region’s industry sectors will continue to diversify
Participants expressed interest in seeing more industry diversity. Some emerging industries discussed were Water Management, Coastal Protection, Logistics in relation to distribution services by drones, and Robotics.
STEM isn’t just for K-12 students
The Capital Region has an untapped potential; 48 percent of its working adult population has no formal education beyond high school. Branding STEM education and training for adults can be just as impactful as sharing STEM with K-12 students.
STEM is more than science experiments, it’s a thought process
A recent study performed by the George Washington University Center for Education and the Workforce stated that 85 percent of jobs that will be available in 2030 have not been imagined or created yet. Training a workforce for unknown jobs is impossible. However, by imbuing the foundations of strong transferable skills, such as problem solving, the region can ensure that our available workforce will be adaptable and ready to learn as technology and necessary skills change.
The Capital Region has great resources
Community and business partners across the region are hosting high-quality STEM events. Collaboration and information-sharing regarding these programs can strengthen our region’s outcomes in STEM.
A Regional STEM strategy would change the game
By having a strong strategy covering the entire talent development continuum from cradle to mid-career, the Capital Region can have greater impact on talent outcomes through a holistic and concerted effort. To ensure a solid strategy, the region would benefit from a STEM center that regularly convenes stakeholders, assesses the needs in the community, and leads a strategic plan to fill gaps.
If you would like to learn more about STEM in the Capital Region or join in on the conversation, BRAC’s staff lead for education and workforce, Ethan Melancon, will be facilitating another regional conversation at the LaSTEM Statewide Summit on November 7, 2019. Registration for this free event is available online here.
Written by Ethan J. Melancon
Ethan J. Melancon is the Policy and Research Project Manager for BRAC. In that role, he serves as the staff lead for all education and workforce development policies and initiatives.