SARATOGA SPRINGS — Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke Thursday about the state’s efforts to invest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education at SUNY Empire State College’s Workforce 2025 conference in the Spa City.
Hochul said nearly every career field uses STEM principles.
“We need to convince people not to be afraid of technology, because this is the future,” she said.
Hochul added that 65 percent of middle school-age students will one day be employed in jobs that don’t exist yet.
“I find that fascinating,” she said of the statistic. “We’re up to the challenge.”
The conference, held at the Courtyard by Marriott, featured speakers from across the state in an effort to address the middle-level skills gap and prepare New York’s workforce for the future.
Hochul called the Saratoga Springs conference “critically important.”
“These are experts and educators who are convening to help us chart a path to encourage young people to pursue STEM careers,” she said. “Now more than ever, as we try to make New York state more competitive with other states, we need to offer employers a highly educated and skilled workforce.”
Jobs in the future will incorporate coding, engineering and technology skills, Hochul said.
“We want to find ways to stimulate an excitement, so young people will pursue this — particularly young women,” she said. “There’s a huge shortage of young women in math and technology fields, so we need to show them that this is something they can do as well.”
According to the Center for Economic Growth, from 2014 to 2016, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University at Albany awarded the most STEM degrees to women, totaling 1,105 and 862, respectively.
The number of science and engineering graduate students enrolled for the fall 2015 semester was up nearly 9 percent from five years earlier at eight Capital Region higher education institutions.
Andrew Kennedy, president and CEO of the Center for Economic Growth, said the Capital Region’s economy continues to be strong because the area has the talent and assets that allow technology companies to stay ahead of the curve.
“This region has what it takes to allow companies to grow, but we don’t want to get to the place where our STEM talent pipeline is so thin that we can’t continue to meet the business community needs,” he said. “Not many regions can claim as many colleges and universities as we can, and they have excelled at producing top-notch STEM graduates.”
Kennedy said the area needs to work harder to not only retain STEM talent but attract it from other parts of the state and nation. He added that the Center for Economic Growth is going to travel to other communities outside the Capital Region in an effort to attract talent.
“The Center for Economic Growth is pursuing training and apprenticeship programs that more directly connect talent with employers,” he said. “The center is also working with local employers to retain the talent they bring here from outside the region.”
Hochul said she and Gov. Andrew Cuomo would “continue to create jobs and improve education in our state and a lot of it circles around investments in STEM education.”