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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Officials: Thousands of Idaho skilled jobs go unfilled

Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho – Thousands of science, technology, engineering and math jobs in Idaho are going unfilled each year in Idaho due to a lack of skilled workers, education officials said.

Education officials told the state Legislature’s joint budget committee on Wednesday that 7,000 STEM jobs went unfilled in Idaho last year – double the number of jobs from the prior year, the Lewiston Tribune reported .

If the jobs were filled, the state could have collected about $24 million in tax revenue generated from the combined annual salary of about $450 million, STEM Action Center Director Angela Hemingway said in the presentation to the committee.

“That represents a huge drag on Idaho’s economy,” Hemingway said.

The number of unfilled jobs could increase to 36,000 by 2024 based on current graduation rates, Hemingway said. The unfilled jobs represent positions that require some level of education beyond high school in the STEM fields.

The state Department of Labor has projected a shortfall of 49,000 workers by 2024 with most being skilled jobs, said Dwight Johnson, administrator of the state Division of Career and Technical Education. About 15,000 to 20,000 of these jobs could be filled by people who have some higher education but less than a four-year degree, he said.

Republican Gov. Butch Otter’s budget proposal for the 2019 fiscal year seeks increases for the action center and the division to address the issue.

The budget recommends $2 million for the action center’s computer science initiative, which funds STEM education projects like public school teacher development, school computer science activities and regional STEM fairs.

The 2019 budget for the division includes nearly $1 million to expand higher level training opportunities for jobs in high demand.