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Recently the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Maine employment in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields grew by 3.4 percent between 2017 and 2021, and that growth generated $6.5 billion in state and local tax revenues in 2021.
That’s great momentum and evidence that more needs to be done to promote STEM jobs across all regions of our state. STEM careers take many forms and begin with positions like computer science technicians and engineers, and continue along the career ladder to scientists, lab technicians and data analysts in fields as diverse as biology and finance. These are exciting, challenging and rewarding careers. We need more of them in Maine.
Planting the seeds of interest in these careers and raising aspirations of young Mainers to pursue these high-wage STEM careers without having to leave the state should start early with our students, and needs to be sustained throughout their middle school and high school years.
There are two initiatives pending before the Maine Legislature that seek modest investments to help students learn more about future STEM careers. First is a proposal to support a statewide experiential program in STEM. The second is a bill to support a mobile STEM lab for middle schools in our more rural and often underserved communities. Policymakers should support these efforts and unleash great potential for more Maine students to pursue STEM studies and careers that will, in turn, help Maine create the 21st-century economy we all seek.