New ‘tech’ economy provides opportunities for those with knowledge, skills
Column in The State Journal, July 18, 2012
By: Anne Barth, TechConnect West Virginia
The “New Economy” requires young people and workers to have specific skill sets, particularly in the business sectors that are expected to see continued growth. Some of these industries are ones that TechConnect West Virginia has targeted in our efforts to foster and promote innovation-based businesses and entrepreneurial activities across West Virginia, including advanced energy, biometrics/identity management, biosciences and chemicals/advanced materials.
These sectors are ones where West Virginia universities, federal labs, nonprofit groups, state and local government, economic development groups and private companies have existing strengths from which to collaborate, foster research and development and generate new companies and good-paying jobs.
TechConnectWV’s four targeted innovation sectors provide tangible jobs and career opportunities for our young people; but only if they are willing to gain the knowledge, skills, education and training that are needed.
What hard skills are needed across the board? Start with science, technology, engineering and math. Workers also will need skills in problem solving, teamwork and communication. Not all of these jobs will require a four-year college degree. Many programs offered by the community and technical colleges in the state also can help prepare the work force for new opportunities.
Here are examples of the job opportunities available for “New Economy” workers:
- Advanced Energy — Jobs in advanced energy include a wide variety of positions with utilities, power generators, energy companies of all stripes (coal, nuclear, gas, solar, wind, hydro, biomass, geothermal, fuel cells, renewables), agencies charged with regulation and monitoring, alternative fuel vehicle production, smart grid technology, energy efficiency consortiums, HVAC companies, and research and development.
- Biometrics/Identity Management — Most jobs in biometrics and identity management are in criminal justice, law enforcement, the military, public safety, homeland security, border patrol or research and development. West Virginia has a concentration of federal government jobs with the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division and the Department of Defense Biometrics Information Management Agency, both of which are in Clarksburg.
- Biosciences — People who work in the biosciences are helping to feed, fuel and heal the world. Numerous opportunities exist in agriculture, pharmaceuticals, biofuels, including many lab technician jobs. Jobs and salaries in biosciences have substantially grown in the past 10 years. To date, there are more than 47,000 bioscience companies and 1.4 million workers in the United States.
- Chemicals and Advanced Materials — With the impending retirements of the Baby Boomer generation and the emerging opportunities presented by the downstream manufacturing potential of the Marcellus shale natural gas, many good chemical jobs are expected in the Kanawha Valley and the state. Efforts are already under way to train chemical plant operators and technicians for good-paying jobs here at home, and with increases in manufacturing and re-shoring, more growth is expected in this sector.
West Virginia is well positioned to benefit from the growth in these technology sectors. But our young people and workers will need to focus their training and acquire the skills needed in order to capitalize on these opportunities. TechConnect West Virginia will continue to help promote these opportunities and diversify the economy across our state.