Without a doubt, 2020 was a turbulent year that will be remembered for its impacts on the world economy and society. However, as the economy and life return towards normalcy, new opportunities for employment are opening and our hopes for the future are brighter than ever.
Current State of the Job Market
Careers in the field of STEM have done remarkably well over the course of the pandemic. When referencing STEM jobs, people usually picture science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. However, STEM jobs also include natural sciences, computer and information sciences, psychology, economics, sociology and political science (National Science Foundation). Education and training in these fields seeks to expand human and intellectual capital which in turn impacts the economic growth, literacy, innovation, and overall capacity of society.
Demand for STEM jobs is not new. Since 2007, STEM jobs have grown 3x greater than non-STEM jobs (Texas State University). However, in the past 12 months STEM fields have displayed remarkable flexibility and resiliency. Many of our leaders have come from fields related to STEM, especially among medical professionals and scientists. The importance of STEM was compounded by the numerous fields deemed, ‘essential critical infrastructure workers,’ as outlined by the DHS CISA. These occupations included those in communications, chemical, energy, food & agriculture, information technology, healthcare & public health, transportations systems, and water, among others.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics investigated the difference between rates of employment change pre-pandemic and post-pandemic for selected industries. Compared to their baselines the following industries are expected to grow between 2019 and 2029:
- Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing,
- Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing,
- Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences,
- Computer systems design and related services, and
- Residential building construction.
However, the following industries are expected to decline compared to the baselines:
- Transit and ground transportation,
- Air transportation,
- Traveler accommodation,
- Food services and drinking places, and
- Nonresidential building construction.
The value of STEM jobs is undeniable. BLS has predicted an overall growth rate of 8% among STEM occupations between 2019 and 2029. In 2020, the median annual wage for STEM occupations was $89,780. As professionals, people with STEM educations or backgrounds are valuable because of their skills in analysis, problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, creativity, leadership, and organization, and the ability to work in a variety of settings.
Employment in the US Virgin Islands
Employment and jobs in the US Virgin Islands have been particularly affected by the pandemic. Lack of travel halted the island’s economy which under nearly 3 million tourists annually. Occupations among tourism and trade are among the VI’s most popular industries. In 2018, 5 for every thousands of persons was employed in the leisure & hospitality sector. However, given the impact of the pandemic and the BLS’ future projections the need to diversify the economy is as certain as ever.
STEM in USVI
In March 2021, the US Virgin Island Economic Development Authority published Vision 2040. The report community feedback to shape VI’s goals over the next 20 years. Of the 8 industry sectors the plan targets for economic diversification and growth across the islands, 5 of them fit within the traditional classification of STEM fields. These sectors include coastal & ocean resources, health science, professional & tech services, renewable energy, and research & development. By 2040, Vision 2040 aims to increase the number of jobs within these target industries by more than 20,000 jobs.
To add to the STEM climate in USVI, in April 2021, the University of Virgin Islands announced its new Data Certificate Program for Professionals. Through the program, students will develop practical, data-driven skills transferable to a variety of fields. The University working in tandem with the RTPark, the VI Bureau of Economic Research, and Cane Bay Partners prepares students and the territory for jobs of the future.
VISTA+ is a service for US Virgin Islanders to directly connect them with job opportunities, especially those related to the STEM field. The platform is facilitated by the RTPark but accessible to firms and residents across the diaspora. More information about the program can be found on the VISTA+ website.
As STEM sectors continue to grow in the US Virgin Islands, keeping up with the latest information will be important. Check back weekly for new blog posts about the amazing world of STEM! If you have comments or suggestions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.