STEM’s yellow brick road to employment

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GUESTTodd_MatiaA friend came to me the other day to announce that he was thinking about becoming a police officer. This came as a shock, since he is probably the most talented artist and painter I have ever met. Up until now, I have watched him provide well for his family through various painting and art projects, and it has never seemed as though he was short on work.

When I asked what the deal was with a drastic career change, he said that it was sometimes frustrating that he was constantly having to drum up work, and that he wanted something more consistent. He was also saying that in the current economy, art can be a more difficult way to put food on the table, and being a police officer has always been in the back of his mind.

He asked, as a teacher, if I knew about any other prevalent job opportunities. This led me to wonder how many people are really thinking about career and job opportunities, but they simply don’t know where to start looking.

Interestingly enough, I am currently involved in a fairly extensive project on this particular topic. I have done a great deal of research around careers rooted in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. I thought I could share some of my findings for anyone looking for a career, or maybe a career change.

Now more than ever, people are trying to figure out what to do with their lives, and the economic woes and uncertainty about the job market’s stability have kicked those thoughts into high gear.

The reality is that this is a tough time to find jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment ratio is at 3.3 unemployed workers for every available job. This is not exactly hopeful news for anyone looking for a job, or a strong motivator for aspiring youth.

Currently, many jobs that people qualify for, or would like to pursue, are in very low demand. These jobs would include restaurant work (wait staff, busing, and dish-washer), low-end enlisted military work, news reporter and broadcasting work, and construction work (www.careercast.com).

On the flipside, it is crucial to point out that there is a growing need for people with technical skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

With Baby Boomers approaching retirement, the United States is looking at a substantial increase in technical positions needing to be filled. Unfortunately, there is a trickling pipeline sending new blood to replace retiring engineers and scientists leaving American companies. So much so, that now, even amid the current employment crisis, there are two STEM-related jobs per unemployed person, a vast contrast to the typical unemployment ratio.

The top-rated jobs of 2012 (in alphabetical order): actuary, athletic trainer, business management, computer systems analyst, curator, engineer (biomedical, civil, electrical, mechanical, petroleum, and software), financial advisor, mediator, meteorologist, multimedia artist, network architect, optometrist, physicians assistant, physical therapist, radiologist, registered nurse, sales manager, technical writer and urban planner.

If you want a job, pursue education and experience in a field requiring a technical science, technology, engineering and math skills. Not all, but nearly every one of the listed jobs requires a deep understanding of STEM. It is not only apparent that that is where the jobs are, but it’s imperative that we start to move people toward those careers.

We educators often encourage people to pursue their passions; however, we sometimes neglect to give students proper guidance regarding the reality of the job market. The last thing I want to do is encourage someone to follow a dream that is going to land them in a place without the ability to support and feed their families.

I often encourage people to pursue passions through the lens of the STEM world. One would be hard-pressed to find a great number of careers where STEM is not needed in some way.

If this piques your interest, but you don’t really know what careers in the STEM world look like, or what’s required to access them, check out an event that educates people on STEM careers.

The third annual Colorado Springs Engineering Summit will open March 9 at Freedom Financial Services Expo Center on North Nevada Avenue. Many top engineering companies will be there, as well as Colorado universities and colleges. The cost is $20 per family, $10 per individual, or $5 and five canned goods for a family. It will be a great event, educating people on what a career in engineering is really all about.

For more: www.CSEngineeringSummit.com, or to get involved email Todd Matia (todd@StinkyKidMath.com) or Kathleen Voss (kvoss@d49.org).