Looking for STEM Workers? Turn to Seattle

By Aaron Hightower January 27, 2017
Looking for STEM Workers? Turn to Seattle

​Seattle currently has the most STEM job openings in the country, according to a new study.

Workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are in high demand. Recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that STEM jobs will grow 1.7 times faster than non-STEM jobs between now and 2020.

And recruiters seeking STEM workers may want to look to Seattle to find them.

Not only is Seattle the fastest-growing city in the Pacific Northwest, it's also the new hub for STEM workers in the country, according to a study by Washington, D.C.-based personal finance site WalletHub.com.

The study, 2017's Best & Worst Metro Areas for STEM Professionals, compared 100 metro areas in two categories: professional opportunities and STEM-friendly environment. Seattle ranked No. 1.

"Professional opportunities" applies to job demand and projected demand, unemployment rates, annual wages, and wage growth potential for STEM workers. "STEM-friendly environment" ranges from the quality of engineering universities and housing affordability to transit accessibility and recreational opportunities.

WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said that Seattle dethroned Silicon Valley because of the city's huge growth in opportunities for STEM employment.

"In many ways, it already has become the new Silicon Valley. Seattle currently has the most STEM job openings in the country, at almost 98 per 1,000 residents, and the second-highest STEM employment, at 12 percent of total employment," Gonzalez said.

Jonah Bliss, director of community at EVELO Electric Bicycles, agrees. His startup relocated to Seattle from New York City and Boston partly because of the STEM workforce pool and the relatively affordable housing.

"While we relocated some existing employees to Seattle, we've found it pretty easy to grow the team now that we're here. There's a deep pool to draw from, new graduates coming out of the region's good universities, and lots of amenities to keep people here happy," Bliss told SHRM Online.

This is no snub to No. 2-ranked Silicon Valley (the San Jose-Santa Clara-Sunnyvale, Calif., area). The study showed that the San Jose area still boasts the highest percentage of STEM workers and the highest quality among its engineering universities, but it nonetheless ranked 28th in STEM-friendly environment.


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San Francisco, Boston and Springfield, Mass., followed Seattle and San Jose in the rankings for the top five markets for STEM professionals, according to the study.

Certain metro areas like New York City, which ranked 32nd, can boast of higher salaries and job growth, but are plagued by a weak infrastructure and overcrowding, which encourages some STEM workers to seek employment elsewhere, said Steve Levy, principal of Recruiting Inferno Consulting in New York City.

"The subways are certainly strained during commuting, and the roadways are constantly filled with traffic. More growth means more people means higher housing and other ancillary costs that have filtered their way outward from New York City central. It's not unusual for more-experienced STEM workers to leave the area," Levy told SHRM Online.

One of the worst cities for STEM opportunities, the study showed, is Jackson, Miss. It ranked last at No. 100.

"Jackson has some of the fewest job opportunities for STEM graduates in the nation at just 14.48 per 1,000 residents, and the projected demand for STEM jobs in 2020 is the second-lowest at just 1.2 percent of the total 2020 employment," Gonzalez said.

Levy said that in order to be competitive, cities that ranked low have to be strategic to attract more STEM professionals.

"In order to keep STEM jobs, an area like Jackson must have plans to educate in STEM, plans to attract and retain STEM employers to the area, and have the infrastructure and community to make Jackson an attractive place for those in STEM to live. For instance, the Mississippi Research Consortium does have a plan for two of the three items. Like any area in the U.S., Jackson requires a committed plan with an understanding that becoming a STEM destination won't happen overnight," Levy said.


Aaron Hightower is a freelance writer in Detroit.


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