By John Melville
For innovation regions like Silicon Valley, the size and growth of its Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) talent pool is a critical ingredient of economic success. People with STEM skills are essential in researching, developing, improving, and scaling innovative technologies, businesses and processes.
As of 2017, our region had 354,990 STEM workers, much more than most other innovation regions. Silicon Valley’s STEM talent pool is almost four-times larger than that of Austin (91,470), and substantially larger than both Seattle (199,780) and Boston (186,670). Of the SVCIP comparison regions, only the megaregions of New York City and Southern California have more STEM workers.
Silicon Valley also has a much higher concentration of STEM talent than other innovation regions—that is, the proportion of STEM workers in the overall workforce relative to the national average. High concentration is important, indicating a strong specialization in STEM talent-driven industries in the regional economy. Some regions have larger absolute numbers but lower concentrations (e.g., Southern California, New York City region), while others have higher concentrations but lower absolute numbers (e.g., Seattle, Boston, Austin). As the chart shows, Silicon Valley ranks highest on concentration and among the largest in terms of size.
Moreover, Silicon Valley in recent years has been extending its lead. Between 2012 and 2017, STEM jobs grew 30% in the region. Unsurprisingly, this growth was largely driven by employment in occupations related to computer, web and telecommunications, which rose 38% during this period. Austin, with a much smaller STEM workforce, grew 24%. Other regions grew much more slowly: New York City (13%), Seattle (9%), Southern California (9%), and Boston (4%). Bottom line: Silicon Valley is both closing the gap in terms of total size of the STEM workforce with New York City and Southern California, as well as outpacing the smaller innovation regions of Austin, Seattle, and Boston in terms of growth.
One more indicator of the region’s STEM strength: between 2012 and 2017, STEM jobs grew faster than the regional economy only in Silicon Valley and New York City. The chart below shows the change in concentration of STEM jobs relative to all jobs, with Silicon Valley’s concentration growing 3%, New York City’s growing 1%, and all the other comparison regions experiencing slower growth of STEM jobs compared to the regional economy (-2% to -10%).
Despite legitimate concerns about the region’s housing costs and transportation woes, Silicon Valley remains arguably the nation’s strongest magnet for STEM talent. Let us know what you think, and tells us what you believe the region should do to sustain its STEM advantage.
John Melville is Co-CEO of Collaborative Economics.