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Brookings Mountain West

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Nevada has in place a plausible economic diversification strategy—and it’s beginning to work. Now, the state and its regions need to craft a people strategy. Specifically, the state needs to boost the number of Nevadans who possess at least some postsecondary training in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or math—the so-called “STEM” disciplines (to which some leaders add arts and design to make it “STEAM”).

The moment is urgent—and only heightened by the projected worker needs of Tesla Motors’ planned “gigafactory” for lithium-ion batteries in Storey County.

Even before the recent Tesla commitment, a number of the more high-tech industry sectors targeted by the state’s new economic diversification strategy had begun to deliver significant growth. Most notable in fast-growing sectors like Business IT Ecosystems (as defined by the Governor’s Office for Economic Development) and large sectors like Health and Medical Services, this growth has begun to increase the demand in Nevada for workers with at least a modicum of postsecondary training in one or more STE M discipline.

However, there is a problem. Even though many available opportunities require no more than the right community college certificate, insufficient numbers of Nevadans have pursued even a little STEM training. As a result, too few Nevadans are ready to participate in the state’s emerging STEM economy. The upshot: Without concerted action to prepare more Nevadans for jobs in STEM-intensive fields, skills shortages could limit growth in the state’s most promising target industries and Nevadans could miss out on employment that offers superior paths to opportunity and advancement.

Which is the challenge this report addresses: Aimed at focusing the state at a critical moment, this analysis speaks to Nevada’s STEM challenge by providing a new assessment of Nevada’s STEM economy and labor market as well as a review of actions that leaders throughout the state—whether in the public, private, civic, or philanthropic sectors—can take to develop a workforce capable of supporting continued growth through economic diversification.


Engineering; High technology industries; Mathematics; Science; Technology


Economics | Economic Theory | Engineering | Growth and Development | Labor Economics | Physical Sciences and Mathematics | Technology and Innovation