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Report: STEM Jobs Make Up Big Part Of St. Louis Region’s Economy

An arial photo of downtown St. Louis. Employment rose in St. Louis this year, but not as much as it did nationally.
(Flickr Creative Commons User Daniel Leininger)
An arial photo of downtown St. Louis. Employment rose in St. Louis this year, but not as much as it did nationally.

Jobs that require at least some STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, knowledge make up a big chunk of the St. Louis region's economy. 

That’s according to a new report from the Brookings Institution. 

Usually, researchers consider a plant scientist or electrical engineer as someone with a STEM job.

Jonathan Rothwell, who authored “The Hidden STEM Economy,”widened the lens to create a broader definition of a STEM job, and included people who work in fields like nursing and industrial construction.  He found they make up 22-percent of the St. Louis region’s work force. 

“These jobs pay relatively high wages,” Rothwell says.  “The average STEM worker earns $66,000 compared to $38,000 for non-STEM workers in the St. Louis metropolitan area.”

So, how does’ St. Louis stack up nationally?

As far as the percentage of jobs that require some STEM training, Rothwell says the St. Louis region sits at number 18 out of the top 100 large-metro areas. 

Funding for STEM job training

In 2011, 26 million U.S. jobs, 20-percent, required a high level of knowledge in any one STEM field, according to the report. 

Rothwell says retraining for jobs that require STEM knowledge can bolster the middle class in the St. Louis region and across the country.

“An associates degreed, or a certification program can be a low cost way to upgrade the skills of a large number of workers who might not otherwise obtain a bachelor’s degree, but yet can still give them a satisfying and decent paying career,” Rothwell says.     

Utilities, professional services, construction, mining and manufacturing are the five most STEM-intensive sectors, according to the report.

Nationally, though, the report notes that a narrow definition of what counts as a STEM job has resulted in only one-fifth of $4.3 billion going toward training below the bachelor’s degree level.   At the same time, twice as many federal dollars go toward Bachelor’s or higher level-STEM careers and the vast majority of National Science Foundation spending ignores Community Colleges, according to the report. 

Follow Tim Lloyd on Twitter: @TimSLloyd

Tim Lloyd was a founding host of We Live Here from 2015 to 2018 and was the Senior Producer of On Demand and Content Partnerships until Spring of 2020.