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As tech jobs, wages rise, schools promote STEM studies
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Gainesville and Hall County schools are doing their part to get more of their students interested in the science, technology, engineering and math fields of study that can lead to high-paying jobs.

STEM jobs continue to multiply — particularly in computer-related fields — and 93 out of 100 STEM occupations pay wages above the national average, according to figures released Monday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Labor Department.

Fully aware of the the rewards available in STEM studies, local schools look for every opportunity to motivate and challenge students to undertake the rigorous course work.

On Friday, Gainesville High School and Gainesville Middle School students will take an early morning bus ride to participate in the Northeast Georgia Regional Science and Technology Fair at the Oconee County Convention Center.

Gainesville High Assistant Principal Dawn Jordan said it marks the first time the Gainesville school district will be participating in the fair.

“We’re excited,” Jordan said. “We pulled students from our honors biology classes. The projects were part of their coursework. We had 83 projects to start with.”

Gainesville High science teacher April Karns said the projects selected to represent the school in the competition were scored using a portion of the rubric recognized by Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair. The scoring components looked at such things as clarity of the hypothesis, data collection methods, reproducibility of results, creativity and presentation.

Meanwhile, Hall County schools are promoting a technology fair for elementary and middle school students Jan. 31 and for high school students on Feb. 1. Both events will be at the North Hall Community Center, located at 4175 Nopone Road.

From May 2009 to May 2015, STEM occupations grew by 10.5 percent, or 817,260 jobs, according to labor statistics. During the same 6-year period, non-STEM jobs grew at a 5.2 percent rate.

Meanwhile, the total number of STEM jobs ballooned to more than 8.6 million, which represented 6.2 percent of U.S. employment. Computer jobs made up nearly 45 percent of all STEM occupations, and engineers made up an additional 19 percent of STEM jobs.

Just as enticing, the national average wage for STEM jobs was $87,570, or nearly double the national average wage of $45,700 for non-STEM jobs, according to labor statistics.

Last week, state scholarship officials announced a plan that would boost the grade-point average by 0.5 points to Hope Scholarship students who pursue STEM courses in college. The incentive offered, which begins in the fall, looks to attract more students to STEM-related careers.