A new study ranks Wichita 22nd among the 100 largest metropolitan areas for the percentage of jobs it has that involve science, technology, engineering or math.
The study by the Brookings Institution showed that the Wichita metro area had 56,100 such jobs, or 21.3 percent of all local jobs.
These jobs, called STEM jobs, cover a range of occupations, from aircraft engineers to health technicians, according to the study. In recent years, a great deal of attention has been paid to the economic value of STEM jobs to both individuals holding them and the country as a whole.
The average annual pay in the Wichita area for STEM jobs is $60,249, compared to $33,827 for non-STEM jobs, according to the study’s authors.
The Brookings report also noted STEM jobs for which the necessary education was less than a four-year degree. The study’s authors say that policymakers often disregard where STEM jobs are and what education is needed to create the necessary workers.
According to the study, about a fifth of the $4.3 billion spent by the federal government on STEM education goes to support education or training below the bachelor’s degree level, making it harder for younger workers to get such training or older workers to get retraining.
Compared to other metro areas, Wichita placed relatively high for the percentage of STEM jobs that required less than four years of college. The report said 12.6 percent of all jobs were STEM jobs that didn’t require a four-year degree.
For Tony Kinkel, president of Wichita Area Technical College, that’s not a surprise.
He has long championed technical education as a way to supply local employers with technically trained workers while providing educational value – higher salaries for relatively low costs – for students.
He has been trying to counteract a culture that, he said, tends to dismiss technical education as not as good as four-year schools.
“I’m thrilled that this study recognizes the wider definition of STEM to include certificates and associate’s degrees,” he said.