STEM Beats - November 2014

The Top Five Cities for Green Jobs

November 13, 2014

If you think green jobs are a fad, think again. While so many other occupations have been roiled by the boom and bust cycles since 2001, green jobs seem to prove the adage that “slow and steady wins the race.” They haven’t seen spectacular gains or dizzying losses from one year to the next, but their long-term growth has been impressive. The number of green jobs has risen more than 16 percent since 2001, three times faster than jobs overall.

So what exactly is a green job? Our definition of “green jobs”  are those that that reduce pollution and protect our environment and natural resources, and include jobs for environmental engineers, environmental engineering technicians, environmental scientists, environmental science and protection technicians, conservation scientists, nuclear engineers, nuclear engineering technicians, foresters, forest and conservation technicians, forest and conservation workers, and zoologists and wildlife biologists. And based on our analysis, those environmental professionals will continue to find new opportunities as the stakes of protecting our climate and natural resources continue to rise.  Only people with excellent STEM skills need apply.

Based on our analysis of the 100 largest metro areas, the top five cities for green jobs are:

5. Oxnard/Thousand Oaks/Ventura, California

Oxnard shoreline

Located on California’s sunny Southern Coast, the Oxnard/Thousand Oaks area is surely an inspiration to environmentalists. Its well-established agricultural and tourism industries depend on the health of the area’s natural resources. Green jobs are almost twice as prevalent in Oxnard as in the nation overall. That adds up to more than 1250 jobs.

4. Boise, Idaho

Boise at dusk

Boise has almost as many green jobs as Oxnard—1,220—but that represents an even bigger slice of the Boise area’s total workforce. Like the Oxnard area, Boise combines a robust high-tech sector with established industries in agriculture, energy and outdoor tourism. This mix of industries creates fertile ground for a green economy.

3. Augusta-Richmond County, Georgia

Augusta park

The Augusta area probably owes its place on this top five list to the Savannah River Site, a nuclear facility that has amped up efforts to protect and clean its surroundings over the last decade. With 1,100 green jobs concentrated in a much smaller overall workforce than Boise’s, Augusta has more green industry opportunities than any other city its size.

2. Knoxville, Tennessee

Knoxville at night

Knoxville might not leap to mind as a magnet for green jobs, but the metro area is in fact a major national center for energy innovation. Home to both the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Knoxville area offers many jobs in clean energy, land management, and environmental stewardship.  Though Knoxville is no larger than Oxnard, it boasts more than 1,800 green jobs. That number will surely grow: the TVA aspires to be one of the nation’s leading clean energy suppliers by 2020.

1. Sacramento, California

Sacramento tower bridge

Sacramento takes the top spot for its deep commitment to green industry. The Sacramento area has three times more STEM jobs than a typical city its size. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District is a top generator of green power, and city leaders have made green building a priority. This focus has spawned a robust green tech sector as businesses spring up to build new green buildings or retrofit old ones. 

Methodology: Change the Equation analyzed jobs data from EMSI, an economic and employment data firm. Metro areas are ranked according to the “location quotient” of their green jobs, a measure of how prevalent those jobs are as a share of the entire workforce. Across the country, the average location quotient of green jobs is 1. The location quotients for our top five metro areas are as follows: Oxnard, CA--1.74; Boise, ID--2.03; Augusta/Richmond County, GA--2.07; Knoxville, TN--2.17; Sacramento, CA--3.13.

Tags: Top 5, jobs & workforce

Election Predictions: Finding the Signals in the Noise

November 4, 2014

Political junkies will be tuning in tonight for the results of the midterm elections. Will the pollsters and prognosticators be taking a victory lap, or will they have egg on their faces? Thanks to the application of STEM know-how to track voter preferences and behaviors, election predictions are becoming more sophisticated and accurate. Check out the STEM connections to political predictions—after you cast your ballot in the Senate, House and gubernatorial matchups, of course.

The Power of Aggregation. In the not-so-distant past, it was up to voters to make sense of the tea leaves of myriad polls done by different organizations over the course of campaign season. Today, top media organizations do that “meta analysis” for you, providing day-by-day trending data and probabilistic forecasts about who’s up and who’s down in the political horse races.

It takes hard-core STEM skills to come up with the mathematical and applied statistical modeling, weighting formulas for different polling variables, acceptable margins of error, calibrations for accuracy, software programs and simulations that go into election predictions. To balance the polls, the aggregators are also combining the polling numbers with historical information and demographic data to their methodology. To learn more, check out “How the FiveThirtyEight Senate Forecast Model Works,” “Meet Leo, Our Senate Model” at the New York Times and “Election Lab” at the Washington Post.

Yes, There’s an App for Prediction Markets. Fans of the now-defunct political wagering site Intrade, rejoice! Founders of Pivit, a free web and mobile application for competitions during live sports games, launched prediction markets in October for the midterm elections, according to the Wall Street Journal. No betting on this app—just predictions based on an analysis that combines experts’ projections with political watchers’ forecasts in key races, says CNN, which is using Pivit in its election coverage.

The Wisdom of Crowds. Average Joes and Janes are elbowing the experts aside for a share of the prediction business. Crowd-sourced predictions are surprisingly accurate, according to a study highlighted at Fast Company. Microsoft is testing out that wisdom with its 2014 Bing Predictions widget, which features interactive graphics with forecasts on the biggest Senate and gubernatorial races. Besides aggregating polls, Bing Predictions follows conversations on social media, such as Twitter, to take the pulse of people’s interest in particular topics, issues or initiatives, and how the conversations change over time. Learn more about the thinking behind the widget at Policy.Mic.

We think it’s only a matter of time before election predictions factor in local weather forecasts and neighborhood traffic jams that impact voter turnout. Until that day arrives, we’ll be watching the election results for the races where the voters behave unpredictably—as they’ve been known to do. What about you?

Get your STEM program in STEMworks!

November 3, 2014

If you know a great STEM education program, now is the time to tell them about STEMworks. Now through December 12, programs can apply to be in STEMworks, the nation's leading resource for identifying excellent STEM education programs. And, if your program is active in Iowa, it may have a singular opportunity to reach thousands more young people in the state.

This year, CTEq is collaborating with The Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council on the state's STEM Scale-Up Program, an initiative to bring top STEM education programs to hundreds of thousands of Iowa students. Millions of state and private dollars have been set aside to expand excellent programs throughout the state. Iowa programs that make it through STEMworks's rigorous review process will be in very select company, featured alongside many of the best STEM programs from across the country. To be eligible for the state and private funds, they will have to answer a set of additional questions about their readiness to go to scale in Iowa. (Learn more in our press release about this important Iowa collaboration, which will give a large portion of the state's students world class opportunities in STEM.)

Even for programs that operate outside of Iowa, gaining a spot in STEMworks can make a big difference. STEMworks programs have received millions in corporate contributions over the past year, allowing them to reach hundreds of thousands more students across the country. Don't miss out on this unique opportunity for your STEM program!

Tags: STEMworks, STEM & the states