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Bio Matters: Well-educated workforce is key for Oklahoma bioscience companies

Sheri Stickley: Oklahoma bioscience firms pay well, but require a labor pool trained in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
BY Sheri Stickley Published: February 24, 2013

Jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — or STEM — are the jobs of today and tomorrow for our country and for Oklahoma.

To flourish, our state's bioscience companies need access to an educated, skilled workforce as much as they need access to capital.

Although Oklahoma jobs in the industry pay well — more than $7,700 above the average wage — they require a quality STEM education that leads to credentials ranging from associate degrees to doctorates.

The U.S. Department of Commerce calls the STEM workforce “the driver of our nation's innovation and competitiveness.” But how do we meet our industries' growing STEM employment needs?

In her 2013 State of the State address, Gov. Mary Fallin noted that one way to strengthen the state's overall workforce is to emphasize STEM in all levels of public education. “STEM jobs are now growing at a rate that is three times faster than non-STEM jobs, making an emphasis on these technical skills more important than ever,” she said.

Parents who want well-paying jobs for their children when they graduate, take note: “For the jobs being created in the next decade,” says Deidre Myers, director of policy, research and economic analysis at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, “80 percent of our workforce will need a postsecondary degree or certificate. More than half of those critical occupations will be based on STEM.

“For Oklahoma to not only maintain but accelerate our current growth, STEM education is vital to our future.”

To help ensure that future, Fallin established the Governor's Science and Technology Council. The council recommended these goals for 2020:

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