Measuring Progress (and Gaps) in the US Skilled Technical Workforce

Skills, Knowledge & Ability in the Technical Field

By Alison Gillespie

In fall 2021, the National Science Board and the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, or NCSES, made an important change to how they describe and quantify the STEM workforce. In the Science and Engineering Indicators report, The STEM Labor Force of Today: Scientists, Engineers, and Skilled Technical WorkersNSB and NCSES provided for the first time data on all people who use science skills in their jobs, not just those with a bachelor’s or advanced degree. Using this more expansive definition, the science workforce represented 23% of the total U.S. workforce in 2019. 

The new report also shows that a little more than half of those working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields are skilled technical workers, defined as those who work in a STEM job but who do not have a bachelor’s degree.

“It seemed like a disservice to omit skilled technical workers,” said Suresh Garimella, president of the University of Vermont and a member of the Board. “To disregard many of the people serving in roles that are critical for our economy and national security – that needed fixing.”

Skilled technical workers are found in healthcare fields, construction trades, installation, maintenance and repair jobs, IT, and production occupations. They also work in agriculture.

“Ag is no longer what it used to be. It’s not your grandfather’s farm,” Garimella said. “There’s so much advanced sensing, automation and data analytics that goes on in food production.” In Garimella’s own state, maple syrup harvesting contributes over 50 million dollars to the economy and involves scientific approaches, complex machinery and high-tech measurements alongside experience and hands-on skills.

Read the full article, Measuring Progress (and Gaps) in the US Skilled Technical Workforce, at the National Science Foundation.

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