By Victoria Meadows, marketing, communications and talent director, Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP)
Over and over again, across industries, businesses identify talent as their number one area of concern. It’s not that jobs are in short supply, but rather that there are not enough workers with the right skill sets to fill current and anticipated positions.
Taking a look at the most recent Michigan Hot Jobs report reveals a heavy need for STEAM education and training, both on a statewide level and on a regional level. Many jobs are featured, like accountants, computer systems analysts, mechanical engineers, environmental scientists, market research analysts and machinists.
American scientist Edith Widder said, “Exploration is the engine that drives innovation. Innovation drives economic growth. So, let’s all go exploring.” With this statement, Widder captures the essence of why STEAM education is so important. The hot jobs on our horizon require backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, art or mathematics; plus, the ability to identify and draw on the relationships that exist between these disciplines. The explorative opportunity inherent in a STEAM curriculum is a key ingredient in the recipe for innovation that will both prepare our talent for discipline specific employment, and also to consider entrepreneurship as a career path.
Within our region, knowledge sector job growth is on the rise, up 6.5 percent between 2005 and 2016 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics), and our region is leading above all other prosperity regions in the state in technical education degree attainment, and educational attainment overall (Business Leaders for Michigan, p. 72 and 75). These metrics matter, and they are evidence that the strong partnerships formed between business, education and the community in this region are working. We are making progress, and we may be leading the pack in Michigan, but as a state we are still lagging.
From an economic development perspective, prioritizing the development of a diverse and sustainable talent ecosystem is a major differentiator, a key competitive advantage. It’s key to attracting new businesses and new people, to keeping our young growing talent from leaving, and key to helping the great businesses we already have stay, grow and prosper right here in the capital of the Great Lakes. The bottom line is that our economy is driven by people, and without skilled workers, no one wins. Investing in STEAM education is one great place for us to focus our collective energy in helping prepare young people for the future economy.
2017 Economic Competitiveness Benchmarking Report, Business Leaders for Michigan, 2017
Victoria Meadows is the marketing, communications, and talent director at the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP). With more than 20 years of broad communications experience, Victoria leads LEAP’s marketing and public relations efforts, working with cross-sector partners to identify strategies for developing and attracting business and talent in the region.