The Youngstown area lacks the high-level STEM workers that help to drive economic growth within a community, according to Jonathan Rothwell, the author of a Brookings Institution study.
The Youngstown market is one of the nation’s lowest in terms of jobs in the science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) areas from 2011. The Youngstown area for the Brookings study includes all of Mahoning, Trumbull and Mercer (Pa.) counties.
“The Youngstown area does not lack in the lower level below bachelor’s degree STEM jobs,” Rothwell said.
In fact, one of the oddities of the study was the area ranked first nationally in term of percentage at 68.9 percent of STEM jobs held by workers with associate degree or less, and the Youngstown metro area was ranked last at 31.1 percent for the number of STEM- related jobs where the employee has a bachelor’s degree or higher.
The issue is that it is mostly the higher-level bachelor’s degree and above positions that typically create new products, which results in economic growth, Rothwell said.
The percentage is higher than expected, but in some ways it makes sense, said Martin Abraham, director of YSU STEM College.
“We don’t have any corporate headquarters here where they’d be doing a lot of research,” he said. “There are a lot of companies that make things where they would need people with associate degrees and not bachelor’s,” Abraham said.
For example, there are 4,500 workers at General Motors in Lordstown, but only maybe 100 of those have four-year engineering degrees, he said.
Only 15.7 percent of area jobs are the in STEM areas, according to the Brookings study. The percentage ranks the Youngstown metro 92 out of the top 100 metro areas in terms of STEM jobs.
There are a total of 32,570 jobs in the metro area classified as STEM positions. The area ranks 94th nationally in the total number of STEM jobs, according to the report.
Jobs in the STEM fields tend to earn higher median salaries compared with all available jobs at $56,069 for STEM positions versus $32,413 for all jobs.
Efforts like the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown have the ability to help create those higher-level positions, Rothwell said. NAMII was started in 2012 after the research for the Brookings study was completed.
“The key is creating some positive momentum [in creating those jobs],” he said.
“The areas that did well tend to have long-term research institutions.”
These would include universities or commercial laboratories that receive federal grants, Rothwell said.
The area needs to continue the work its been doing with faculty working with local companies to help develop new products and applications, Abraham said.
The STEM college continues to grow at YSU, but the students are taking positions regionally in places like Cleveland, Akron or Pittsburgh, he said.
“We would like them to stay closer,” Abraham said.