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STEM in the Southeast: Why Young Professionals are Turning to the Region for their Next Job

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In an age as full of promise and technological wonder as today, it’s no surprise STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs are in high demand. What may be surprising, however, is where people are going to find them.

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For decades, STEM has been synonymous with Silicon Valley. Even today, the word “innovation” evokes images of the tech giants nestled there, from early pioneers like Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and Apple Computer to the young companies that define the social, subscription and ride sharing zeitgeist of the current decade, such as Google, Netflix, Facebook and Uber.

While Silicon Valley will likely always hold a unique place in the nation’s landscape, we’re beginning to see more STEM hotbeds sprouting up throughout the country, particularly in Southeastern cities, including Orlando, where we’re proud to have one of our PAN offices.

In fact, according to a recent Forbes article and findings compiled by Praxis Strategy Group based on federal data and EMSI’s fourth-quarter 2017 data, show Orlando to be leading the nation in STEM growth, coming in at 8 percent – three times the national average.

Similarly, a recent study from WalletHub, which ranked 2018’s Best and Worst Metro Areas for STEM Professionals, ranked Orlando in the top 30 U.S. cities, coming in at No. 27 – the highest-ranked Florida metro on the list. Also cracking the top 40 spots nationwide were the Southeastern cities of Raleigh (No. 22), Charlotte (No. 37) and Tampa (No. 38), demonstrating this is more than just a passing fad. The Southeast is working its way up to becoming a tech superpower.

Why the Southeast?

STEM folks know it’s all about the numbers – and there are a lot of them to consider when looking to make a career move. For some, the up-and-coming nature of the Southeast offers a less competitive market, which can mean more job security or greater opportunities for experimentation and growth.

Others are lured to these cities by their affordable cost of living, diverse housing options and short commutes. Charlotte, for instance, boasts low living costs, a thriving downtown with millennial-friendly activities, and ties to the financial services industries –  all of which contributed to it being named the “top momentum market” in 2016 by real estate firm CBRE, a titled earned for its impressive tech-talent growth rate between 2010 and 2015, according to Kotkin.

Furthermore, the Southeast offers a wealth of universities and colleges with affordable, flexible course options for those pursuing higher education. This also ensures a steady flow of tech-savvy works, resulting in a number of major companies not only settling, but rapidly expanding within the region.

Take Orlando, as an example. Some may only know the city as Mickey Mouse’s ZIP code, but looked at in another light, it’s a center of innovation, particularly when it comes to video game design and animation, with major corporations like Disney and Electronic Arts supporting a growing STEM population in the area.

Similarly, on the academic side, the University of Central Florida’s video game school has seen an increase in enrollment, particularly among women as the city looks to bolster its programs aimed at encouraging young girls to pursue STEM disciplines.

Orlando is also home to leading aerospace and defense companies like Lockheed Martin and Harris Corporation that are continuing to invest in the local community, encouraging STEM education and then pursuing the talented crop of individuals coming out of the area’s leading institutions – an inspiring cycle that is continuing to drive Orlando and other Southeastern cities like it to the top of the list of STEM hotspots on the rise.

What’s Ahead for STEM

There’s no question that the demand for jobs in STEM is only going to continue to increase. In the coming years, we’re likely to see progress being made across numerous industries – from self-driving cars and advancements in large-scale battery power to significant developments in the way we detect and treat disease.

The decades of innovation that proceeded us are proof of all we can accomplish, and while much of what lies ahead is a mystery, it’s clear we’ll be seeing a lot more innovation from other regions of the country in the years to come.

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