Report Highlights Hidden STEM Economy

Science, tech, engineering and math (STEM) careers justifiably get a lot of ink as critical to the economy, the driving force of the future. Half of all those jobs don't even require a bachelor's degree, which is good news for the majority of working-class adults. Yet public policy and public spending doesn't prioritize that half of the STEM workforce. Of the $4.7 billion of federal cash spent on job training, only a fifth of it goes toward training for jobs that don't require a bachelor's.

STEM jobs make up a fifth of the U.S. Economy, or 26 million total jobs – a figure that's doubled since the Industrial Revolution and continues to grow, according to a report released by the Brookings Institute Monday called "The Hidden STEM Economy."

Some of the most common careers requiring less than an Associates Degree include registered nurses, auto techs and mechanics, carpenters, supervisors of production and operations workers, electricians, computer analysts, mechanics supervisors, machinists, plumbers and welders.

The average starting salary for those? Higher than $53,000 a year – that's 10 percent greater than other jobs requiring less than an Associates. Not bad for a position demanding fewer than a couple years' education.

A lot of these jobs center around familiar STEM economies like San Jose and Washington D.C., Brookings, says. But other metro areas boast a lot of high-skilled manufacturing work, including Detroit, Dayton and Colorado Springs.

Those economies with higher concentration of STEM education and work tend to fare better than their service and hospitality-related counterparts, the report continues. They enjoy lower unemployment, more patents per capita and higher median households incomes, among other perks.

"STEM workers play a direct role in the invention, creation and maintenance of technologies that drive economic growth," the study states. "But previous studies of STEM have focused exclusively on white-collar STEM jobs. In this sense, sub-bachelor's level jobs represent a hidden and unheralded STEM economy."

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