By Joe Catrambone
This is a follow up to a previous report written in January 2014 regarding the need for more education in the STEM field. 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 STEM jobs available in Florida. That demand is felt throughout the state, including within the growing $5 billion modeling, simulation and training industry.
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 will be the most prominent.
Job growth through 2021 is projected to be about 12 percent; data from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity predicts STEM growth projections at more than double that. If Florida does not have an educated workforce in STEM fields, industry will be forced to move elsewhere to recruit skilled talent.
The bottom line is Florida needs to be ready. While Florida's fourth grade reading scores are second in the world only to Hong Kong, our state still faces a talent gap, a need for a highly skilled and educated workforce. 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. Our state's ability to remain competitive, and 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. The STEM skills gap is a real challenge yet a real opportunity for Florida.