Education officials say thousands of science, technology, engineering and math jobs are going unfilled each year in Idaho due to a lack of skilled workers.
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 from the prior year.
In Idaho, a STEM job pays nearly double the median wage of a non-stem job, which is about $30 an hour.
“If you multiply that by the 7,000 unfulfilled jobs your looking at $450 million in unclaimed labor wages for Idahoans,” says Angela Hemingway, the Executive Director for the Idaho STEM Action Center.
Hemingway says about $24 million in state tax revenue would have been generated if the jobs were filled.
Idaho's Stem Action Center aims to better educate students with hands-on, work-based solutions, funded through a grant from the National Governor's Association.
“So offering students in high school or in community colleges opportunities to actually engage in work be that apprenticeships, which is what we are really focused on, but also internships,” says Hemingway.
Hemingway says the number of unfilled jobs could increase to 36,000 by 2024 based on current graduation rates.
Gov. Butch Otter's budget proposal seeks modest increases for the action center and state Division of Career-Technical Education to address the issue.