Economic Impact: STEM skills are important, but employers also value soft skills

The importance of science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, knowledge in our labor market is talked about a lot.

Jobs requiring that knowledge in STEM fields often pay much more than the average job. Many STEM jobs, such as computer programmers and operators, also are growing much faster than the average of all jobs.

But STEM skills are not sufficient to succeed in the workforce.

A growing number of companies and government agencies around the state and country complain that workers don’t have the necessary “soft skills” - anything from teamwork to communicating and to critical thinking.

The U.S. Department of Labor has a program that enables you to quantify the importance of soft skills in occupations. The program measures knowledge, skills, and abilities in more than 700 occupations in the nation.

A couple of basic skills - active listening, speaking, and critical thinking - can identify the importance of soft skills.

Through surveys, each attribute is ranked from one to seven in terms of the level needed to perform a job.

A score of two in critical thinking, for example, means the worker can “determine whether a subordinate has a good excuse for being late.” A level of four means the worker can “evaluate customer complaints and determine appropriate responses,” and a six means the worker can “write a legal brief challenging a federal law.”

About 97 percent of occupations required soft skills ranging from 2.6 to 6.5. The need for these soft skills, in fact, is even more universal than, say, the need for math skills.

And the three occupations expected to add the most jobs in the U.S. over the next 10 years, according the Labor Department, all have a level of critical thinking over a score of 5 - personal care aides, registered nurses, and retail salespersons.

Compared to math, the level of soft skills needed in all occupations was higher.

And moreover, generally speaking, the greater the level of soft skills required, the higher the pay associated with the occupation.

The bottom line is that STEM skills are important for many occupations, but employers value soft skills in all occupations.

Christine Chmura is president and chief economist at Chmura Economics & Analytics. She can be reached at (804) 649-3640 or receive e-mail at

Teaches kid 14-21 The basic structure of the program is comprised of modular, hands-on, engaging activities that focus on six key skill areas: communication, enthusiasm and attitude, teamwork, networking, problem solving and critical thinking, and professionalism.


Upcoming Events: October 26-29, 2014 CoreNet Global North American Summit

Event Date: October 26-29, 2014

Location: Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center

Exhibition Booth Number: 1934

CoreNet Global’s “One Summit a Year” Model in North America comes to Washington D.C!


More than 2000 corporate real estate professionals are expected to gather for top notch peer-to-peer education, networking and the opportunity to meet with the service providers and community leaders who make their lives easier every day. Get solutions to your biggest problems, build relationships that will stick with you throughout your career and impart your own lessons-learned over three days of high-impact education and networking.

Conference Website:CoreNet Global North American Summit


Upcoming Events: October 19-22 IEDC Annual Conference: Steering Towards the Future: Convergence, Connectivity, and Creativity

Event Date: October 19-22, 2014

Location: Fort Worth Convention Center

Exhibition Booth Number: 315

Big Data: Raising the Bar in Site Selection

Since the recession there has been an unprecedented convergence of inter-disciplinary research experts such as economists, geo-spatial experts, data scientists and sociologists who are coming together to understand shifting labor supply and demand and how labor trends impact communities. As a result, site selectors, economic developers and prospecting companies are designing innovative approaches that uncover hidden geographies of opportunity at the hyper-local level, from sub markets within urban areas to rural gems. In this session, industry experts and economic developers will dive into real-world examples and share how they are helping companies from multiple sectors identify the right community for their organization based on labor cost, availability and sustainability.

What you will learn:

• How companies are using new and expanded data sources to influence site selection decisions
• Tips for improving the positioning of your community within the new site selection landscape
• Strategies for working with local partners to access important data requested in the site selection process

Moderator:Amy Fobes, Principal and Founder, geoCommunica, Dallas, TX


Josh Bays, Principal, Site Selection Group, LLC, Dallas, TX
Christine Chmura, PhD, President & Chief Economist, Chmura Economics & Analytics, Richmond, VA 

Conference Website: IEDC 2014 Annual Conference


Upcoming Events: October 7-9, 2014 VEDA Fall Conference: Governor's Conference on Economic Development

Event Date: October 7-9, 2014

Location: Hilton Richmond Hotel and Spa

 Conference Website: 2014 VEDA Fall Conference

Session I on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 at 8:30 AM:

Dr. Chris Chmura

How Labor Availability is Changing the Conversation Around Deal Flow

Some description

Chris Chmura is the President, Chief Economist, and Principal of Chmura.

Chris Chmura is the President and Chief Economist for Chmura Economics & Analytics, a quantitative research and economic development and workforce consulting firm located in Richmond, Virginia, that she founded in December 1999. She is a quoted source on regional and national trends in the media throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, as well as national publications such as the Wall Street Journal. She writes a monthly column on the economy for the Richmond Times Dispatch.




Economic Impact: Health care and construction jobs will be fastest growing in region

If you are looking for work during the next decade, consider health care and construction jobs.

Those two industries should see the fastest-growing employment in the Richmond area.

The health care and social assistance sector should grow an average 2.5 percent a year in the Richmond area during the next 10 years compared with an average 1.2 percent for all industries, according to analysis by Chmura Economics & Analytics.

That translates into a need for 24,480 more health care workers over the next 10 years.

In addition to that, 19,168 people will be needed in that sector to take the place of people who retire or leave the industry.

Skill sets that will be needed in the Richmond health care sector include:

• personal care aides (2,884 new positions expected with an additional 469 positions replaced);

• registered nurses (2,043 new positions expected with an additional 2,248 positions replaced);

• home health aides (1,843 new positions expected with an additional 786 positions replaced); and

• nursing assistants (1,173 new positions expected with an additional 1,140 positions replaced).

Employment at health care firms consistently outpaced the overall economy during the recession and since it ended.

In contrast to health care, employment in construction saw a larger percentage contraction during the recession than any other major sector.

Looking ahead, Chmura Economics & Analytics expects employment in that sector to grow at the second-fastest pace in the Richmond area as recovery in the construction industry builds momentum.

Employment at area construction firms is expected to grow an average 2.7 percent a year in the next decade, adding 20,568 jobs with an additional 7,632 positions for retirements or transfers to new positions.

The largest openings related to construction are expected to be:

• construction laborers (1,470 new positions expected with an additional 1,268 positions replaced);

• carpenters (927 new positions expected with an additional 560 positions replaced); and

• electricians (753 new positions expected with an additional 666 positions replaced).

Aside from growth in health care and construction-related occupations, bookkeepers, accountants, first-line supervisors, and sales representatives are expected to expand by the largest number of jobs in the metro area.

On the flip side, the largest number of area job losses are expected at the U.S. Post Office as it continues to grapple with the fast pace of communication over the Internet.

Job opportunities currently are better in the Richmond area compared with the state, which is still struggling with federal spending cuts.

Nonfarm employment rose 2.1 percent in July in the Richmond area from the same month a year ago, while it rose 0.6 percent in the state during the same time period. National employment grew 1.9 percent over the same period.

As we celebrate achievements of workers this Labor Day, we should also look at what jobs will be here in the future. Students, take note.