Growing up in the 80s-90s, you likely saw pop culture representation of “computer geeks”, whose moms would yell into the basement that they should get outside, get some useful skills or find a woman! You would also have the trope where the stereotypical dad would be disappointed in his nerdy son because he wasn’t going to follow his footsteps and join the football team or whatever.
Now, of course, those depictions seem even more inaccurate. We know that knowledge of science and technology, particularly computer science, is hugely important and one of the driving factors of our economy. There is a reason President Obama has been urging everyone to learn how to code. It’s a vital skill, and nowhere is this truer than in San Francisco and the Bay Area. The tech sector, which fuels the mobile tech we use every day and has reshaped the American economy, provides great-paying jobs for people throughout the region. As it grows, it will promote innovations, helping new generations learn technology, and continue the cycle. Silicon Valley could be the first self-sustaining economy, and STEM jobs are behind it.
STEM Jobs: Where The Bay Area Rules
STEM stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics”, and they are often lumped together in terms of education and employment. A recent study showed that the Bay Area offer three of the top five US regions for STEM jobs. Other top areas surround DC and primarily revolve around defense contracting as well as some scientific research. These cities are:
- #2 San Francisco – Twitter, Instagram, Craigslist, Yelp, Dropbox
- #4 Oakland – Ask.com, Pandora, AMCO Chemical, Pac-West
- #5 San Jose/Silicon Valley – Adobe, Facebook, Apple, Tesla, Google
One thing that might surprise you is that Oakland ranks higher than Silicon Valley for STEM salaries. Here’s why. The highest-paying STEM jobs aren’t programmers and designers. There is a much higher pay rate for electrical engineers, chemical engineers, and especially people who know how to work in energy fields, like petroleum drillers and other geologists. Oakland is still a port town in many ways, where an older and arguably deeper economy rules, that of energy and extraction. However, this old economy is transforming via innovation and a generation of people trained in technology.
How Silicon Valley shapes the future
This leads to an interesting dynamic. Obviously, there are great-paying jobs at Apple and Google and other tech places, even if they aren’t as highly-paid as some of the older industries in STEM. But Apple and Google are shaping the STEM workforce in many ways. The mobile technology created by these giants, and the information revolution they have brought, are making huge strides in increasing our scientific aptitude. Kids growing up today don’t have to decide whether to do something “practical” or something “nerdy” – it’s the same thing. There has been an enormous cultural shift.
The growing familiarity with technology is met by government investment in STEM education, as we see how the tech sector is booming and changing every field. It can’t just be the government, though, and private business needs to step up and help in these investments. Because this is not just a mushy “children are our future” movement but a very realistic assessment of the coming economic climate.
A smartphone in the hands of a student can be a means to play games and goof off, or it can be a way to start a life-long love affair with science and technology. It can help him or her understand, respect, and even love math and what it can do. A tablet made in San Jose can help create an engineer who changes industry in Oakland and whose investment in technology helps entrepreneurs develop the next big thing that takes San Francisco and the nation by storm.
These are all connected. The mobile tech that we create now can improve our technology and lives in the future. We just have to have the will to not just use it, but to use it well and wisely.