Salem State University President Patricia Meservey is right when she points out that demand for workers skilled in the so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) “is higher than it has ever been.”
A Brookings Institute study released earlier this year found that as of 2011, 20 percent of jobs in the United States — a total of roughly 26 million jobs — require “a high level of knowledge” in any one STEM field.
So Gov. Deval Patrick was certainly welcome at last week’s North Shore Chamber of Commerce leadership breakfast at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, where he announced a $32.9 million state commitment to upgrade the science labs at Salem State’s Meier Hall. The project (along with a $20.7 million project on North Shore Community College’s Lynn campus) will be funded over the next five years.
Patrick noted that the Meier Hall labs “have not been upgraded in 40 years.”
It’s another key investment for Salem State, which has been a state leader in STEM education and has more students majoring in STEM fields — about 2,000 — than any other school in the state university system. That includes the largest nursing program in the state.
The Meier Hall project follows other recent campus improvements, including the new $73.5 million library and a $15 million fitness center. Plans are also in the works for a new residence hall.
Given the need for highly trained workers — recently, Abiomed CEO Mike Minogue noted his Danvers-based company, which makes the world’s smallest heart pump, has hired more than 100 people over the last 18 months — the investment should pay off for the local economy as well as the region’s next wave of skilled workers.