Science & Technology Careers

Sunday, January 9, 2011; 9:00 AM

What is the Government Doing to Encourage Interest?

The American employment landscape is changing. The days of following in dad's footsteps at the plant are over. As more people find that previously stable jobs in manufacturing and labor are disappearing, the government is expanding its efforts to interest job seekers in growth industries like science and technology.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Department of Labor (DOL) is investing approximately $220 million in science and tech training. These grants work on the local level to fund skills training programs through community colleges and apprenticeship programs. The Chesapeake Area Consortium for Higher Education member schools are using ARRA grant money to fund a program to provide certification in Environmental Technology. This program is tuition-free through fall of 2012.

ARRA grant money is being used by local universities to fund scientific research and tech training programs. George Washington University recently received a $4.6 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to launch a 12-month certification program to train IT health professionals. Additionally, Georgetown University is using an ARRA grant to build a new interdisciplinary teaching lab and research center in partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Job numbers in the manufacturing sector are continuing to sink, displacing thousands of workers. The tech industry added 30,200 jobs between January and June of 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The DOL is working to interest displaced workers in retraining programs focused on the science, technology, education and mathematics (STEM) fields.

"STEM careers require problem solving and critical thinking. These skills cannot be automated, and employer demand for them is expected to increase in the coming years," Mike Trupo of the DOL said.

Displaced workers can overlook career opportunities in science and technology. Often, it is because they do not feel that their education and training qualifies them for a job in science or tech. Many workers do not realize that experience with robotics or computer programs that they have from previous jobs may help them transition into growth industries like high-tech manufacturing or green energy.

"One of the things we focus on is skills transferability," Trupo said. "What skills do I have that I can transfer into another industry?"

The DOL has an array of tools available for workers looking to pursue opportunities in tech and science. The "mySkills, myFuture" tool, available through the DOL's Web site, helps job seekers determine what industries they should consider based on the skills they already have.

In Maryland, One-Stop Career Centers, administered by the Maryland Department of Labor, offer a variety of resources. Through these centers, job seekers have access to training programs, job listings and career counseling. There is a center in every Maryland county.

As the American employment landscape changes, federal and state governments are striving to interest job seekers in pursuing careers in science and technology by providing resources, grants and training in these fast growing industries.

This special advertising section was written by Amy Gardner Mcneal, a freelance writer, in conjunction with the advertising department of The Washington Post and did not involve the news or editorial departments of this newspaper.

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