“STEM knowledge offers attractive wage and job opportunities to many workers with a post-secondary certificate or associate degree,” says Carmen Ferrigno, Vice President, Communications at Saint-Gobain, the world’s largest building materials company. 

YouthBuild Philadelphia students and the Saint-Gobain Corporation Foundation transformed a once-dilapidated property into a model of affordable, sustainable urban living in less than 18 months

According to a 2013 Brookings Institution study, blue collar STEM jobs play a crucial role in the economy, with about 26 million jobs (20 percent of all jobs) requiring knowledge of at least one STEM field in 2011. Roughly half did not call for a four-year degree, paying an average salary of $53,000. This wage is 10 percent higher than jobs with similar educational requirements. Of large metro areas, San Jose, California and Washington, D.C. have the most STEM based economies. 

Opportunities are endless

“There’s a significant need for world-class manufacturing practices in the U.S.,” Ferrigno explains, “this translates to a greater need for more technically-savvy manufacturing employees, so we’re seeing the ‘blue collar’ positions evolve into careers that rely more heavily on math and computer skills.” 

In many cases, skills for these jobs can be taught through on-the-job training, without the need for four years of classroom time. In the construction industry, there are many positions that offer high earnings, thousands of annual job openings and strong projected growth. Skilled trade positions including pipefitters, steamfitters, plumbers, carpenters and electricians require only a high school degree or its equivalent and on-the-job or vocational training offered through non-profits such as YouthBuild USA. 

“There’s a significant need for world-class manufacturing practices in the U.S. This translates to a greater need for more technically-savvy manufacturing employees.”

Providing support

YouthBuild USA helps low-income learners earn a high school diploma or GED while gaining green construction skills as they build affordable housing for families in need. Scott Emerick, YouthBuild USA Vice President of Education, applauds companies for providing guidance and training.

“There’s a huge difference between recognizing a skills gap and actually rolling up your sleeves to engage deeply with programs in schools and young people, to review and co-create curriculum, to engage directly with young people in service and  look at career training work going on at a job site. If you provide learners with high expectations and support, they exceed beyond our wildest dreams.”

Adds Ferrigno, “It’s really given us an understanding of why it’s so important to work side by side with the next generation.”