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Wisconsin’s Rise in STEM Grads Boosts State’s Status as a Tech Hub


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Wisconsin’s Rise in STEM Grads Boosts State’s Status as a Tech Hub

Wisconsin is dedicated to growing the state’s STEM-educated workforce, and ensuring that there are plenty of STEM-related jobs waiting for students when they finish school.

Across the U.S., the talent wars are being won by states that invest resources in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and have workforces with strong STEM capabilities. It’s encouraging news, then, that the number of graduates from Wisconsin technical colleges’ and universities’ STEM programs has been rising in recent years, both at the bachelor’s and at the advanced degree level.

The marked progress Wisconsin has made in this area in the past five years bodes well for our employers. Wisconsin has a number of key industries that depend on having a solid supply of talent with training in the STEM disciplines. With a healthier talent pipeline, our companies will have an easier time finding the skilled labor they need. We can also expect the existence of this skilled and highly educated labor pool to draw new companies to our state.

The number of graduates in STEM fields has been steadily growing since 2009. A total of 7,325 undergraduate and 1,620 graduate degrees in STEM fields were conferred by the University of Wisconsin System in 2015, compared to 5,153 undergraduate and 1,241 graduate degrees in 2009. These increases took place not just in Madison and Milwaukee, but at UW campuses across the state.

For the purposes of this analysis, a number of STEM-related fields were included, in addition to engineering and engineering technologies: natural resources and conservation, communications technologies/technicians and support services, computer and information sciences and support services, biological and biomedical sciences, mathematics and statistics, physical sciences, agriculture, agriculture operations and related services, architecture and related services, and science technologies/technicians. Data used are from the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDS database.

“THE NUMBER OF GRADUATES FROM THESE PROGRAMS INCREASED AT A RATE HIGHER THAN THE NATIONAL AVERAGE, REFLECTING THE QUALITY OF OUR STEM EDUCATION AND THE INCREASED FOCUS OUR INSTITUTIONS HAVE BEEN PLACING ON RECRUITING.”

 

In Wisconsin from 2010 to 2015, the numbers of graduates from these programs increased at a rate higher than the national average, reflecting the quality of our STEM education and the increased focus our institutions have been placing on recruiting. Most of the growth can be attributed to the UW System, where the number of bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields grew by 38% from 2010 to 2015, compared to a national average of 29%.

The growth rate for Wisconsin’s pool of graduates was especially high in one field—computer and information sciences and support services—where the number of undergraduate degrees granted by the UW System increased by 61% from 2010 to 2015, compared to a national average of 41% during the same time frame.

If Wisconsin is going to reap the full benefits of these highly skilled graduates, it must also pay attention to keeping them here: job seekers who hold these degrees are in demand not just in Wisconsin but across the country and around the world. To this end, WEDC recently unveiled the Think-Make-Happen initiative, a statewide, interactive marketing strategy that is being implemented with the help of partners across the state, including young professionals’ groups.

Wisconsin is a dynamic environment for business, where creative and innovative ideas lead to new products and technologies that solve society’s problems—and it’s a fun place to live, with a multitude of recreational opportunities and an outstanding quality of life. With the help of our new Think-Make-Happen initiative, we are working both sides of the equation—making sure our students are well-trained and that there are jobs here for them once they graduate, while also emphasizing the state’s quality of life attributes to make sure they know all the reasons they should stay.

Ultimately, we are very pleased with the increasing numbers of STEM degrees being granted in our state. We are determined to capitalize on this encouraging trend by further enhancing Wisconsin’s status as destination of choice for both employers and employees.

Learn more about Wisconsin’s skilled workforce.

About Lee Swindall

Lee Swindall
Lee Swindall is vice president of sector strategy development with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. He has more than 30 years of experience in business development, management consulting, and corporate and industry analysis.