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Oklahoma students need certain types of classes for tech-based economic growth

Young Oklahomans need to be engaged in science, technology, engineering and math training.
by Scott Meacham Published: August 5, 2014
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With the new school year about to rev up, I’ve got STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education on my mind.

This isn’t some altruistic preoccupation on my part.

Although I care very much about Oklahoma’s young people getting an education that allows them to compete in a global economy that is increasingly technology-based, my focus is driven by new company starts and the jobs they create.

The data that I see every day tells me that we as a country and state are not on a path to meet the future demand for STEM skills.

Nationwide, STEM jobs — those that require degrees in these technical subjects — currently account for 10 percent of all U.S. jobs.

Rapid growth

These positions are projected to grow two times faster than the average for all occupations over the next five years.

What’s true for the nation is true for Oklahoma.

We have an abundant pipeline of technology and invention from the labs and research facilities at OMRF, OU, OSU, TU and other institutions.

To bring those technologies to market, we need scientists, engineers and business people with the kind of problem-solving skills that they teach you in physics and calculus class.

And when people have those skills, they earn more. i2E’s portfolio companies have an average annual wage of $73,395 — nearly double the $38,250 state average.

Plus STEM jobs tend to be rewarding, challenging, and just plain fun. Many STEM occupations are in companies that are working with cutting-edge technology.

The work is fast-paced and dynamic; the people doing these jobs are always learning something new.

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by Scott Meacham
President and CEO of i2E Inc.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology....
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DID YOU KNOW?

In spite of the intense drive to encourage students to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics high school student interest levels in STEM fell between 2009 and 2013 and is now slightly below 2000 levels.

SOURCE: U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index

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