The root of a STEM career: Introducing Chandler Burke

Future Engineer Scholarship Winner_Chandler BurkeAs I sit down to write my introduction, I realize that I’m really excited to have this opportunity. Truthfully, I’ve never blogged before. It’s not that I’m shy or nervous or anything. It’s just that I’ve always been lagging behind in social networking. Of all my friends I have been the last to get a phone, and certainly the last to sign onto Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Snapchat.

But through this blog I will relate my experiences at Rice University and hopefully encourage students to sincerely consider a major and career in an engineering and technical field.

By this time, you’re probably wondering who I am, so here it goes. My name is Chandler Burke, and I’ve just finished my first year at Rice University as an Electrical Engineering major. My long-term goals are to earn my PhD and perform research as either a college professor or for a company in a Research & Development capacity.

As Electrical Engineering teaches one skills that are applicable in a wide variety of fields, I have multiple options for specialization such as MRI imaging of the brain to more “standard” electrical engineering applications such as designing circuits, improving computer hardware, signal processing, system design or even device physics.

For this blog, I plan to simply share my experiences and observations. I’m not one to pass on too much advice—most people seem to know what they want, and advice from a random stranger isn’t going to do convince you to change your life, nor should it. Heck, my parents would argue that I hardly even listen to them, so if that’s the case why should I expect you to listen to me?
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STEM skills gap: Now is the time to act

STEMednews

The demand for professionals with STEM backgrounds – meaning Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – is steadily rising. Currently, there are 1.4 vacant STEM jobs for every qualified STEM job-seeker. If this rate persists, by 2018 there will be a projected 1.7 million STEM jobs without qualified applicants to fill them.

Filling this skills gap presents an education challenge for the American job market. A recent article cites that “In 2013, there were 5.7 million total postings in STEM fields. Of those, 76%, or 4.4 million, require at least a bachelor’s degree, and 41%, or 2.3 million, are entry-level jobs requiring less than 2 years of experience.” To that point, only 28% of undergraduate students presently partake in STEM courses in college – even with an abundance of available jobs on the rise in these areas.

Yet, the STEM gap doesn’t begin in college; the fact remains that by the time job-seekers are in college or post-college, it’s too late to develop the necessary background to support open STEM job functions. As such, another route must be taken to fill the growing STEM gap – and it must begin early in the academic journey. To truly impact the STEM gap, students and educators alike must begin looking at earlier education for the foundation of a solid STEM background.

So, we have a solution. But does the majority of the American public know that this serious issue even exists? Does the public know that American children’s proficiencies in math and science are shrinking? And that only 18% percent of all college engineering majors are female?

If the answer to these questions is no, then how do we get the American public on board with early STEM education? The short answer is to educate our public on the STEM skills gap issue and what the crisis means for our future.
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Metropolitan minimum wage increases continue

spaceneedleAt the end of last year, we wrote a blog post about California raising its minimum wage from $8 an hour to $10 an hour, and discussed the pros and cons of raising minimum wage.

This month, Seattle passed a bill that increases the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, the highest in the country at almost double the national minimum wage.

The interesting difference between Seattle raising its minimum wage, as opposed to when California raised its minimum wage is that this law is only relevant to those working directly within the city limits. This means that there will be almost a five-dollar difference in pay between neighboring cities.

The impact of this situation is unknown, but people are paying attention. Some of the results economists are watching for include:
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3 ways to reward and engage your best talent

157006973Talented employees are the leaders behind successful companies. To tap into your best employees and optimize their skill sets, employers need to strive for employee engagement consistently. When your top talent loses engagement or feels that their work is undervalued, they begin to seek out other opportunities. Here are three things you can do to engage your best talent and keep them happy as they move the company forward.
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Five rockstars of the job market

151329130test2014 has shown signs of particular growth – all of which results of key factors, including shifts in the economy and significant current events.

The job market continues to hold strong in a few key industries: healthcare, finance, computer systems and information, and employment services. Although this list isn’t exhaustive, these industries will continue to play a big role in the 2014 job market and the future of the job market altogether. Many positions in these industries require new support roles or other professions that are attainable through a certification process; job seekers should approach large industries with an open mind and consider breaking into new industries through a surplus of emerging support roles.
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Metropolitan employment improving across the country

Jobs report: in your region

Sources: Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment Report – April 2014Regional and State Employment and Unemployment – April 2014

The national BLS “The Employment Situation — May 2014” report showed a surge in employment, adding 217,000 new jobs to the economy, the fourth straight month to show 200,000+ job gains. Economists are hopeful that this continual upswing will prove to be permanent recovery from the Great Recession.

Both regional and state unemployment rates continued to fall for the majority of the Unites States metropolitan areas, according to the BLS’ latest “Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment” report.

In April, the national unemployment rate fell 0.5 percentage points to 6.3, a whopping 1.2 percentage points lower than the previous year. 357 of the 372 areas showed a lower unemployment rate from the April 2013 number. Only 12 metro areas reported higher unemployment (18 less than the previous year), while 3 showed unchanged data (compared to 14 last year).

Looking deeper into the April metro area numbers, Bismark, North Dakota — at 2.6 percent —led the nation with the lowest unemployment rate. In total, 19 states had jobless rates significantly lower than the US figure of 6.3, while 7 states and DC had higher rates, and 24 states had rates that were not measurably different than the national average.

In other positive news, employment increased in 302 of 372 metropolitan areas, decreased in 63 areas and was unchanged in 7 areas. Additionally, 30 of the 32 metropolitan divisions had over-the-year employment gains and 2 had losses since April 2013. The largest over-the-year percentage increase in employment among these divisions occurred in Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (+4.2 percent), followed by Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, Florida and Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, Florida (+3.3 percent each).

Here are some key regional highlights from the BLS “Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment — April 2014 report:
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