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Why investing in STEM matters

Good-paying science and tech jobs are booming


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With today’s students preparing earlier for careers in science, technology engineering and math (STEM), nearly every school district in the state is funding projects that will create spaces to prepare them for more advanced learning.

“At the high school level, we call them maker spaces,” says Jennifer Cordes, head of the Denver Higher Education Studio at the architecture firm Hord Coplan Macht. “There are labs where they’re designing and creating things. It can tie into physics and robotics. They’re learning about science and engineering by doing and creating.”

Employment in occupations related to STEM is projected to grow to more than 9 million by 2022, an increase of about 1 million jobs over 2012, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workers in STEM occupations earn a median annual wage of nearly $76,000 — more than double the $35,080 median wage for all workers in May 2013.

Universities also are investing in projects geared toward STEM. Cordes points to the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. The 83,000-square-foot building will include large indoor spaces for flight-testing of unmanned aircraft, as well as ground robots. It also will include modern research labs and large lecture halls. The open, collaborative environment will encourage interdisciplinary work.

One of the big things maker spaces include is storage. And because there are a lot of mechanical systems, ventilation is critical. The STEM phenomenon is even reaching into early childhood education centers, said Adele Willson, head of Hord Coplan Macht’s K-12 studio.

“The investment just tells you it’s an important thing as far as people looking for careers and interested students,” Willson said. “It’s the hands-on piece that makes students interested in it.”

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Margaret Jackson

Margaret Jackson is an award-winning journalist who spent nearly 25 years in the newspaper industry, including seven years as a business reporter for The Denver Post covering residential and commercial real estate. She can be reached at myjackson7@gmail.com.

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