Education in math and science is even more important because of the changing economy, according to findings released Monday by the Brookings Institute.
The report expands the definition of jobs that require knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known collectively as STEM. Under the new classification, nearly 20 percent of jobs in Oklahoma and nationwide require such education.
The new definition includes jobs such as construction trades workers, metal workers and vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers and repairers in addition to more traditional science and technology jobs such as engineers, scientists, financial specialists and business operations specialists.
University of Oklahoma economist Bob Dauffenbach said the expanded definition is appropriate because many more traditional jobs now require a greater understanding of science, technology and math.
He pointed to an example of a kitchen remodeling company that uses lasers to measure a room and calculate the amount of materials needed to complete the project.
“It's hard to find a vocation these days that isn't accompanied by a laptop,” Dauffenbach said. “They seem to be placing an emphasis on the need for mathematics and analytic understanding for a growing number of professions. That fits with my view of why it's a great concern that we don't seem to be doing that well in kindergarten through 12th-grade mathematics training in terms of how our students compare to those internationally.”
Scott Meacham, president and CEO of Oklahoma City-based technology nonprofit i2E Inc., welcomed the expanded definition, which he said better reflects the state and country's economy.
“If you look at a lot of the jobs today in the modern economy, whether it be in the energy industry or the aerospace industry or any other big industry in Oklahoma, there's a lot of STEM knowledge required,” Meacham said. The new definition “acknowledges the reality of those jobs today and what employees need to know to be successful in those jobs.”