New Jersey’s proud title of “medicine chest of the nation” is under challenge. New Jersey-based Merck recently announced layoffs that would reduce its workforce by as much as 15%. As jobs requiring technical knowledge disappear or move out-of-state, whether through mergers in the pharmaceutical industry, downsizing, or industry-related competitiveness issues, the pharmaceutical industry in New Jersey is hard hit.
According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, New Jersey in 1990 had over 20% of the nation’s total employment in pharmaceutical and its related manufacturing jobs. By 2006, New Jersey’s share was 13.9%. That decline directly affects the well-being and stability of industry-dependent communities. Statewide and locally, the support of New Jersey’s “medicine chest” employers is a high impact issue.
2011 Rutgers study highlights health care industry’s importance
According to a 2011 study by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development and the Center for Urban Policy Research at New Jersey-based Rutgers University, more than 300 biotechnology, medical technology and pharmaceutical companies in the state had operating expenditures of $42.8 billion. Those same industries directly supported 217,546 full-time jobs in 2009. Additionally, as estimated by The Rutgers study, those industries contributed $23 billion to New Jersey’s GDP in 2009-10, just under 5% of the total state GDP.
Progress in winning back the title
New Jersey won’t quietly surrender its medicine chest title. Governor Chris Christie has stated his determination in preserving New Jersey’s pharmaceutical industry. In 2011, Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals announced New Jersey as the location for its new corporate campus. More hits like that are needed.
New Jersey remains home to more pharmaceutical companies than any other state in the country, or any country in the world. The Healthcare Institute of New Jersey recognizes New Jersey’s healthcare industry is a major factor in growing the state’s economy and urges the adoption of policies to make the nation and state more competitive in attracting life science jobs and investment. Education policies that drive Information Age skills are a part of that picture.
2011 National Research Council’s Framework for Science Education
The National Academies of Science has issued a 2011 report, The Framework for K-12 Science Education. The recently released report emphasizes the critical importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education in competitive success for 21stcentury careers.
Need for workers with sound science education backgrounds
New Jersey’s “medicine chest” employers including Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Bayer, and Bristol-Myers Squibb, require employees with robust and current technical know-how. They know the “medicine chest” sector of the state’s economic engine is heavily dependent on the strength, relevancy, and growth of STEM education in the tri-state area’s K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities.
The familiar adage, “so goes the pharmaceutical industry, so goes the state of New Jersey,” needs to include “so goes science education, so goes the state of New Jersey” with insightful enlargement to “so goes the state of the nation.”
A strong science education program plays a key role in growth and stability
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workers generate new ideas and new industries according to a recent 2011 report, STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future, produced by The U.S. Department of Commerce. STEM workers and their industries drive key components of our nation’s innovation and competitiveness.
U.S. businesses need technology and science trained workers with strong, current Information Age skills. Just as importantly, those businesses, even within spurts of downsizing and rebuilding, state shortage concerns over the supply and availability of workers with 21st century, modernized STEM skills.
The US Department of Commerce report offers compelling facts that support the importance of education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
- Over the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs was three times as fast as growth in non-STEM jobs.
- STEM workers are also less likely to experience joblessness than their non-STEM counterparts.
- In 2010, there were 7.6 million STEM workers in the United States, representing about 1 in 18 workers.
- STEM occupations are projected to grow by 17.0 percent from 2008 to 2018, compared to 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM occupations.
- STEM workers command higher wages, earning 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts.
- More than two-thirds of STEM workers have at least a college degree, compared to less than one-third of non-STEM workers.
- STEM degree holders enjoy higher earnings, regardless of whether they work in STEM or non-STEM occupations.
Aligning education’s growth with industry needs accelerates learning’s practical success and relevancy. Expanding education’s opportunities are crucial issues. In order to reach the Obama administration’s goal of having the world’s highest share of college graduates by 2020, educational opportunity and successful programs must be widely extended. Delivery of a strong, 21st century science education’s capacities to all learners is a critical part of the journey toward a thriving economy at local, state, and national levels.