Colby Cesaro and Danielle Duggan| Crain’s Detroit Business

When science and math jobs go unfilled in Michigan, there’s a price to be paid – and not just in lost manpower.

The total is $1.9 billion, which would have been paid to the workers filling those jobs, according to an analysis of job postings and other employment data by the Workforce Intelligence Network.

And the spinoff from those wages, in new jobs and taxes paid, makes the total even higher.

A WIN analysis shows that there are nearly 30,000 more job postings than there are qualified college and high school graduates in Michigan for the so-called STEM positions; science, technology, engineering and math.

That means as many as 75 percent of STEM positions could go unfilled, a situation which would mean workers missing out on lucrative, high paying jobs most between $25 and $40 per hour.

Multiplying what could be up to 30,000 unfilled positions by the average wage comes to $1.9 billion in annual wages left on the table. The number would shrink as more talent comes to Michigan or more students come out of college prepared for STEM jobs.

But there’s more at stake for the state as well.

The $1.9 billion in foregone income could mean nearly $60 million in forgone income tax revenue for the state (assuming a 3.5 percent effective tax rate).

And don’t forget the ripple effects from those employees’ spending in the economy.

There could be 15,000 forgone jobs per year in the state of Michigan, according to the WIN analysis of the multiplier effect of new jobs created by the $1.9 billion in wages.

What is STEM?

The “typical” STEM jobs are categorized as professional jobs, such as engineers and research scientists. Many of these professional occupations are associated with creating new STEM products or innovations and the jobs can only be accessed with high levels of post-secondary and graduate-level education. These jobs have close ties with research universities and corporations, and are at the forefront of developing new technologies.

Yet researchers at the Brookings Institution recently uncovered a second STEM economy, which is critical for the sustainability of Southeast Michigan’s economy.

The second STEM economy draws from high schools, workshops, technical schools, and community colleges. The workers in this economy are critical to the implementation and practicality of new ideas and innovation. Workers in this STEM economy have the technical knowledge and skills to produce, install, repair, and use new innovations.

These workers are classified as STEM based on what they need to know to do their jobs rather than on what they create, and include machinists, technicians, and even air traffic controllers. Their jobs require knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math, but are not typically counted as part of the STEM workforce.

When factoring both the STEM fields that require a college degree, in addition to those that don’t require a college degree, 25.8 percent of the jobs in Southeast Michigan are tied to STEM positions.

Deeper problems

The problems of attracting STEM talent runs deep in Michigan and metro Detroit.

Employers are demanding workers for positions, yet they remain unfilled. Demand is outpacing supply for STEM jobs by as much as 15 times in some industries, according to WIN.

Higher education is struggling to keep up.

In the IT field, there were 5,303 degrees and certificates awarded to STEM-educated students in 2012, while WIN tracked 79,328 job postings between Jan. 2012 and June 2013.

In advanced manufacturing (skilled trades), the 31,865 postings dwarfed the 4,118 completions, while the engineering-oriented advanced manufacturing positions outpaced students 49,945 to 11,592 respectively.

Coming closest of the four industries examined by WIN was health care. There were 35,608 completions to 85,685 job postings.

What to do?

In a three-part series of stories, WIN will look at the challenges for employers to find STEM workers. Additionally, the series will examine some of the regional strategies, such as work in the educational systems to find students and pique their interest.

science, technology, engineering and math positions

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