West Virginia shows strong growth in STEM fields

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel 

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — West Virginia. A state filled with coal miners, manual laborers, workers whose jobs did not require much post-secondary education, right?

Wrong, according to a new study that shows the mountain state has a higher percentage of workers in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math fields than the national average. If you are surprised, you are not alone. But the numbers show West Virginia may be doing a better job of transitioning its economy than had been thought. TechConnect West Virginia reported 48,553 people in the state work in S.T.E.M. fields, with an average hourly wage of $28.89. There are 56,600 more people employed in medical/healthcare positions; and nearly 2,500 teachers who handle STEM subjects in post-secondary schools.

TechConnect’s report also showed STEM jobs in our state support another 190,000 jobs.

Many of the jobs in question require less than a four-year degree. In fact, one- or two-year degrees and certificates are often all that is needed. That is more good news for a state in which young people can ill afford to fall further into debt to pay for expensive college educations.

The trick now, of course, is to keep this growth going. Employers are headed in the right direction, and many have found the workforce they need in the Mountain State. Policy makers should do all they can to encourage them – and stay out of their way.

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