POINT OF VIEW: Building a talent pipeline to meet STEM demands

Florida’s economy is booming, yet, as other states also are experiencing, the talent gap persists in many of our targeted industries, particularly in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations. The CareerSource Florida network and our strategic partners are working hard to address this challenge. As workforce developers, we know talent is key in continuing economic growth.

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Of the more than 280,000 current job postings in Florida, nearly 70,000 are in STEM fields, according to the Florida Chamber. Over the past 10 years, STEM jobs have grown three times faster than non-STEM jobs. Over the next decade, national data indicate the economy will need nearly a million more STEM professionals than the United States will produce at the current rate.

I recently attended a first-of-its-kind State-Federal STEM Education Summit hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in Washington. The STEM Education Summit convened a diverse group of STEM leaders, including more than 200 workforce and industry representatives, K-20 educators, state policy experts and nongovernment organization executives.

We offered policy guidance for a new federal STEM Education Five-Year Strategic Plan. This was a unique chance to come together to help map out important priorities such as STEM apprenticeships, school and workforce collaboration, and improved access to STEM curricula for learners across all ages and backgrounds.

Here in Florida, employers are collaborating with workforce development, economic development and educational entities to bridge skills gaps through the expansion of apprenticeships in STEM-related fields. Florida is among 36 states recently selected to help the National Office of Apprenticeship within the U.S. Department of Labor meet its goal of doubling and diversifying the number of apprenticeships by 2019.

CareerSource Florida is integrating apprenticeships into our statewide sector strategies initiative to enable us to meet the talent demands of tomorrow and support state and local economic growth today. A strong focus on STEM-related education and career pathways, including expanded apprenticeship opportunities, will help ensure our next generation of employees is motivated and ready to meet current and future business needs.

Individual initiatives have formed around the state to develop new apprenticeship programs that will grow our STEM talent. CareerSource Palm Beach County is working directly with the School District, higher education institutions such as Palm Beach State College and community partners on a variety of career pathway initiatives including aviation, aerospace and engineering, IT coding and health care programs, all focused on STEM training and employment.

As the manufacturing industry continues to grow, occupations such as welding need talent, too. By 2026, there will be more than 450,000 welding jobs available nationwide, with nearly 8,000 needed in Florida. Trained welders can earn upward of $60,000 a year.

By fostering talent in these STEM fields, we can bring incredible economic opportunities to families, businesses and communities. It is exciting and inspiring to see the momentum building for these collaborative efforts, here in Florida and across the country.


Editor’s note: Dennard is president and CEO of CareerSource Florida.

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