Reports descriptive findings on employment in the energy and advanced manufacturing sectors and the status of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education within a 27 county region of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia participating in the Appalachia Partnership Initiative. 

“The stated goal of [the Appalachia Partnership Initiative (API)] is to produce a long-term, sustainable effort to build the pool of local workers for jobs in the energy and advanced manufacturing sectors in” Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, where the natural gas industry grew sharply from 2010 to 2015 (p.3). “To meet this goal, API has committed to investing $20 million to support [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] (STEM) education for kindergarten through the 12th grade and STEM workforce development programs to educate and train local adult workers. These programs increase preparedness for and access to STEM jobs in the energy and advanced manufacturing sectors” (p.3-4).

This report is the second of “five successive annual descriptive reports documenting and summarizing the…region’s STEM workforce, employment, and wages in energy and advanced manufacturing-related industries, as well as STEM education intended to shed light on transformations under way” (p.4). Research questions included: “what types of jobs and occupations are in high demand? Is there sufficient talent with the requisite skills to fill those jobs? Are education and training providers producing a qualified workforce that will find employment in the region’s evolving STEM labor market?” (p.4).

“[The authors] used publicly available data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Decennial Census, American Community Survey (ACS), and Local Employment Dynamics…; the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics…National Assessment of Educational Progress…and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System…; and each state’s Department of Education. From these sources, [the authors] documented trends in regional working-age populations, real wages, employment, eighth-grade assessment scores, high school graduation rates, and the number of higher-education degrees granted in STEM-related fields. In many instances, these indicators track slow-moving trends, registering gradual changes over a single year. Furthermore, several of the indicators are necessarily based on a five-year average from the ACS, which mutes year-to-year changes (e.g., the 2014 data are based on data from 2010 through 2014)” (p.5).

 (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

The authors provide the following key findings: • “Working-age population decline was persistent and pervasive within the…API…region. Twenty of the 27 counties registered declines between 2000 and 2014. • However, the population was virtually unchanged in size, as population growth in a few counties offset decline in the others. • Workers in traditional…STEM…fields commanded the highest pay in the API region, but STEM pay levels in the region lagged national average pay levels. • Regional workers in extraction and construction fields commanded pay substantially above the national average in these fields. Workers in extraction industries’ median wages were comparatively high and rose 6 percent [between 2010 and 2014]. • Both nationally and within the API region, real wages…declined across all education levels [from 2010 to 2014]. Workers with the least education were hardest hit: their real wages declined around 6 percent. • Most new hires in oil and gas extraction jobs were drawn from labor pools in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Most open jobs were filled by local workers switching from other industries, not by oil and gas workers from outside the region. • High school graduation rates rose in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, following a national trend. • Institutions of higher education appeared to be graduating students with the needed STEM skills. Local institutions exceeded the national average in the percentage of students gaining certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields. Across all institutions, 16 percent of graduates were in STEM-related fields, as compared [with] 12 percent nationwide” (p.1). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)