Did You Know STEM Skills and Florida’s Innovation Economy
By: Melissa Roberts
Did you know? Since 2010, Florida’s labor demand in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields has increased by more than 63 percent. Currently, there are more than 55,000 unfilled STEM jobs in Florida. That demand is felt throughout the state, including within the growing $5 billion modeling, simulation and training industry.
Securing Florida’s future prosperity is tied to our ability to fill high-wage jobs. This means Florida must do a better job of meeting the demands of a 21st century economy, where STEM-related jobs are likely to be among the most prominent.
While job growth through 2021 will be about 12 percent, data from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity shows STEM discipline growth projections at more than double that. If Florida does not possess a robust talent pipeline in STEM fields, job creators will be forced to move elsewhere to recruit highly-skilled talent.
The Bottom Line – Florida Needs to be Ready.
So, where do we stand? While Florida’s fourth grade reading scores are second in the world only to Hong Kong, our state still faces an emerging talent gap – a crisis in human capital that represents a vast, growing and unmet need for a highly skilled and educated workforce. Consider the facts:
- Slightly more than one-third of 4th graders were below proficiency on the 2014 math FCAT.
- The number of students below proficiency jumps to more than half at the 8th grade math level.
- 46 percent of students were below proficiency on the 5th grade science exam, while 51 percent of students were below proficient on the 8th grade science exam.
- These scores nationally rank Florida 29th in 4th grade math, 35th in 8th grade math, 26th in 4th grade science and 38th in 8th grade science, according to NAEP, the nation’s report card.
Why should Floridians care? Our state’s ability to remain competitive, and thus provide greater opportunities for families, relies on our ability to diversify the economy. To diversify our economy, we must close the talent gap and prepare students now for the STEM-related jobs of the 21st century.
Florida is already feeling the repercussions of a talent supply gap – including in our state’s $5 billion modeling, simulation and training industry (MS&T). Central Florida, the epicenter of the United States MS&T industry, employs more than 60,000 Floridians. This industry provides much needed technology to support our military and defense industry, and has grown steadily even in a sluggish economy. The industry is heavily reliant upon employees with STEM-related skills.
“The STEM skills gap is both a real challenge and a real opportunity for Florida,” said Waymon Armstrong, CEO of Engineering and Computer Simulations in Orlando.“ Just for the MS&T industry in Central Florida, STEM skills are a main element of $5 billion in economic activity. Our industry is affected by federal sequestration, defense department cuts, and budget spending cycles. The STEM skills gap is an additional challenge and one Florida should address proactively. A recent US Census Bureau study revealed that 74 percent of STEM graduates are not employed in STEM occupations. This presents a real opportunity for Florida to stake its claim as a global leader in STEM talent pipelines. We have high-wage jobs right here, and need the talent pipeline to fill them. Florida has made progress, but there is still a long way to go in this endeavor. How we close the gap on science and math scores will make Florida’s modeling, simulation and training industry more likely to continue its status as a Florida economic engine. Exposing students to science and math in new and exciting ways, rigorous standards in our educational systems, and ensuring the highest quality teachers are delivering content in the STEM subjects will be vital to continuing our progress.”
Here are Three Ways You Can Help
- Register to attend the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2014 Military, Defense and Veterans Opportunities Summit in Orlando on August 13. Thomas L. Baptiste, Lt Gen, USAF (Ret), President & CEO, National Center for Simulation and other keynote speakers will outline how industry, academia and smart government have helped this cluster develop and grow and will discuss opportunities for future growth.
- Join us at the 2014 Future of Florida Forum, September 29 – October 1. Join state business leaders, industry experts and elected officials as they discuss and explore how to secure Florida’s future, together. This year’s program features top level executives from several state agencies and identifying connection points and partnerships that will make Florida the state with vibrant communities, high-wage jobs and endless opportunities for global competitiveness. Register today and be a part of the conversations that will help Florida stand out as the best state to live, learn, work and raise a family.
- Become a Florida Chamber Foundation Trustee and help provide strategic direction for Florida’s future, to 2030 and beyond. For more information, contact Sal Nuzzo at 850-521-1283 or SNuzzo@FLFoundation.org.
Tell Us Your Story
How does your business benefit from STEM-related skills? How can we help build Florida’s high-skilled future? Share your Florida story with us.
About the Florida Scorecard Did You Know:
The Florida Scorecard, located at www.TheFloridaScorecard.com, presents metrics across Florida’s economy. Each week, the Florida Chamber Foundation produces a Scorecard Did You Know that takes an in-depth look at one specific statistic. If you would like additional information on the Weekly Scorecard Did You Know or on the Florida Scorecard, please contact Sal Nuzzo with the Florida Chamber Foundation at 850.521.1283 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow Sal on Twitter at @SalNuzzo and the Florida Chamber Foundation at @FLChamberFDN.