CIT - The Center for Innovative Technology

Talent Pipeline

Goal: Expand and enhance Virginia’s high-quality and highly skilled workforce.

Talent pipeline indicators measure the state’s success at attracting, retaining, and producing human capital and the state’s current availability of highly skilled workers. A skilled workforce is associated with higher productivity and is one of the most important inputs for fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. Talent pipeline indicators show trends for various educational levels, beginning with programs for primary school students and continuing through graduate school. They also examine degrees awarded in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and entrepreneurship training outputs.

Enrollment in Virginia’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) program, which is designed to stimulate primary and secondary school interest in science and technology, increased slightly from the year before. This was primarily a function of higher participation in the FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition programs. The number of degrees awarded in STEM fields at the postsecondary level has steadily increased. Interstate migration provided a net outflow of college-educated adults from 2012 to 2016. Virginia continues to perform at or near the top among U.S. states in terms of college attainment rates and the percentage of its workforce in science and engineering occupations. Post-secondary entrepreneurial experience opportunities are also expanding. Several universities surveyed now offer either formal degree programs or concentrations in entrepreneurship as well as entrepreneurship centers and experiential learning programs.

Why is the talent pipeline important?
An educated workforce is more productive, thereby improving economic growth and wages. It is also more adaptive, open to new ideas, and entrepreneurial. In order to further improve the skills of its workforce, the state must train, retain, and attract skilled workers. Demand for skilled workers is high and expected to increase rapidly in the future, especially for workers in STEM occupations. Virginia’s K-12 and public higher education institutions will play a key role in satisfying this demand. Higher education institutions are also providing more and varied entrepreneurship education and experience opportunities, which will help ensure that the Commonwealth has an expanding pool of potential entrepreneurs with the skills and experience needed to create startups and introduce new products and services. The state’s impressively high percentage of STEM-prepared workers provides a key competitive advantage for future economic growth in high-tech industries.

How has Virginia performed over the last five years?
FIRST Participation
FIRST is a non-profit organization that offers programs to stimulate primary and secondary school student interest in STEM education and career opportunities. Four FIRST programs are offered in Virginia: grades K-3 (Junior FIRST Lego League or Jr. FLL), grades 4-8 (FIRST Lego League or FLL), grades 7-12 (FIRST Tech Challenge or FTC), and grades 9-12 (FIRST Robotics Competition or FRC). Total FIRST participation in Virginia increased from 2012 to 2014, decreased in 2015, and increased again in 2016. In 2011, an estimated 8,677 students participated in FIRST programs. This had increased to 9,529 students in 2016. Participation rate increases over the 2012-2016 period were highest in FTC, which increased from 648 in 2012 to 1,584 in 2016, a 144% rate of increase. FRC increased 16%, from 1,675 in 2012 to 1950 in 2016. Participation in FLL decreased from 5,124 in 2012 to 4,785 in 2016, a rate of decrease of 7%. Jr. FLL decreased over this time period as well, from 1,230 in 2012 to 1,210 in 2016 for a 2% decrease.


STEM Degrees
High-technology and innovative enterprises have a large and growing demand for workers with STEM degrees. The number of STEM degrees produced by state institutions of higher learning provides a measure of how well they are helping to meet this demand. The number of STEM degrees awarded by Virginia public, private non-profit, and private for-profit colleges and universities has generally increased over the last five years. Associate’s degrees awarded increased from 4,168 in 2011 to 4,489 in 2012, and eased to 4,149 in 2014 before climbing to 4,298 in 2015. Bachelor’s, graduate, and professional degrees have been on a steady upward path from 12,954 in 2011 to 16,594 in 2015.


On a population-adjusted basis, Virginia awarded 51 Associate’s degrees in STEM fields per 100,000 residents in 2015. This rate compares to 37 per 100,000 residents nationwide. Virginia’s rate was sixth highest in the nation and was higher than all benchmark states except for California. The nation’s highest rate was in Arizona with 98 degrees per 100,000 residents. Virginia awarded 198 STEM field Bachelor’s and higher degrees per 100,000 residents, ranking it 20th highest among states in the nation. This rate compared to a national average of 180 degrees per 100,000 population in 2015. Massachusetts was the leading state with 340 degrees per 100,000 residents. Among benchmark states, Virginia was lower than Massachusetts, Maryland (257), and Pennsylvania (249).



Knowledge Worker Migration

Virginia has experienced a net outflow of college-educated adults to the rest of the nation for four of the last five years. There was a net surplus in 2013, but net deficits in other years. Over the entire 5-year period 2012-2016, the state experienced a net loss of 12,431 college-educated adults with 10,303 of those occurring in 2016 alone.



State migration rates for college-educated adults can vary in response to regional economic conditions and the relative size of the higher education sector. Virginia’s net migration rate of college-educated adults was -1.1 per 1,000 population in 2015, which ranked 24th highest among U.S. states. This rate was higher than benchmark states Massachusetts (-8.7), Pennsylvania (-4.9), and Maryland (-2.4), but lower than North Carolina (11.4), Texas (9.0), and California (1.6). The leading state for 2015 was Nevada at 18.1 per 1,000 population. The domestic net migration rate for the United States is, by definition, zero.


Workforce Education Level
The percentage of Virginia’s workforce (defined here as anyone between the ages of 25 and 65) with at least a Bachelor’s degree has steadily improved over the last five years. In 2011, 37.2% of the workforce had a Bachelor’s degree or higher and 15.2% had a graduate or professional degree. By 2015, these percentages had improved to 39.0% and 16.1% respectively. Virginia ranked sixth among U.S. states in the percentage of the workforce with Bachelor’s degrees and fourth for graduate or professional degrees. Among benchmark states, only Massachusetts (44.1% for Bachelor’s degree or higher and 18.9% for graduate/professional degrees) and Maryland (40.4% Bachelor’s degree or higher and 17.8% for graduate/professional degrees) were higher.



Workforce educational achievement percentages vary widely within Virginia. Ranking highest in 2015 was the Northern region, where 54.8% of the workforce had Bachelor’s degrees or higher and 24.9% had a graduate or professional degree.



Science and Engineering Employment
Virginia has an impressively high percentage of skilled workers, reflecting the state's knowledge-intensive industries. Virginia ranked first in the nation in the percentage of its workforce (7.5%) in science and engineering (S&E) occupations for 2014, up from 7.3% in 2009. Maryland (7.4%) and Massachusetts (6.9%) were the closest benchmark states. The national average was 4.7%.


Academic Entrepreneurship Experience
Virginia’s public institutions of higher education stimulate interest and develop skills in entrepreneurship through training, experiential learning, formal degree programs and concentrations, entrepreneurial centers, student clubs and organizations, and entrepreneurial student living arrangements. Many colleges and universities have started or scaled up resources and programs in these areas in recent years. The University of Virginia and Virginia Tech provide formal degree programs in entrepreneurship, while the College of William and Mary, George Mason University, James Madison University, and Virginia Commonwealth University offer concentrations at the Master’s or Baccalaureate levels. Centers for Entrepreneurship have been established at most institutions; the following offers examples of the many centers in place. They include the Alan B. Miller Entrepreneurship Center at the College of William & Mary; the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at George Mason University; James Madison University’s Center for Entrepreneurship; the Strome Entrepreneurial Center at Old Dominion University; the Batten Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Virginia; the da Vinci Center at Virginia Commonwealth University; and the Apex Systems Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Virginia Tech.

At least seven graduate-level public universities offer clubs and experiential learning programs and entrepreneurship training programs for students and members of the public. Total headcount in student and public entrepreneurial training in FY2015 was estimated at 25,521 in FY 2015, up from an estimated 8,469 in FY 2014. In addition, the College of William and Mary, Old Dominion University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Tech offer student entrepreneurship living arrangements, which provide a living-learning community for learning, networking, and mentoring. Virginia Tech offers two separate entrepreneurship living options: the InVents Living Learning Community (a residential hall featuring spaces for students to create and discover) and Innovate Living Learning Community (a residential space linked with additional student programming, including entrepreneurial networking opportunities and startup company experiences).

State legislation signed into law in 2016 provides additional support for student entrepreneurs by clarifying higher education rules under which students own intellectual property. This new law was adopted to foster a welcoming culture for student entrepreneurship in the state’s public colleges and universities and encourage more student innovation and commercialization.

What are the implications?
The talent pipeline shows how well the state continues to build the human capital needed for innovative industries. FIRST participation, an indicator of K-12 interest in STEM learning that may lead to future increases in STEM college degree program enrollment, remains at high levels. Virginia higher education institutions continue to increase overall STEM degree production, suggesting that the state is responding to the increasing demand for scientific and technical workers. Virginia universities are also ramping up efforts to cultivate student entrepreneurship. The state has been less successful in adding to the skilled labor supply by attracting highly educated workers from elsewhere in the U.S. in three out of the last five years. Virginia has an impressively high concentration of workers in science and engineering occupations, and workforce educational attainment levels continue to improve. However, some regions have significantly lower concentrations of higher educational attainment. Overall, Virginia has been successful in stimulating student interest in STEM from an early age and training and expanding the number of skilled workers needed for innovation- and entrepreneurship-driven growth.

Data Sources and Definitions:
Each IEMS indicator reports data available as of January 4, 2018 and provides a description of trends for five years of historical data when available.

Virginia FIRST: Participation data were provided by VirginiaFIRST and Virginia-DC FIRST Lego League. VirginiaFIRST is responsible for the High School programs (FRC and FTC) while Virginia-DC FIRST Lego League handles FLL and Jr.FLL. Participation is identified by program, including FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), FIRST Lego League (FLL), and Jr. FIRST Lego League (Jr. FLL). Participation is estimated by multiplying the average number of students per team by the number of teams. Data available every year in May.

STEM Degrees Awarded: STEM degrees are defined using the STEM-Designated Degree Program List of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS): Degree data are from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Completions (C) and Institutional Characteristics (IC) files: The first four years were revised release files and 2014-2015 was a provisional release file. All institutional awards are counted (first and second degrees). Two degree levels are computed: (1) Associate’s, (2) Bachelor’s or above (Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate, and first-professional degrees only). First-professional degrees are degrees that are required to start practice in a profession and require at least six academic years of total college work. Institutional awards other than degrees are not counted (e.g., certificates). Degrees are computed for public, private non-profit, and private for-profit institutions. Institutions are associated with a state based on legal address information (state abbreviation) from the IPEDS Institutional Characteristics (IC) file. Available every year in March.

Net Migration of Knowledge Workers: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, Tables B07009 and B07409, 1-Year Estimates: Total domestic in-migration shows the college-educated population 25 years of age and over that moved into Virginia from other states in a given year. Domestic out-migration shows the college-educated population 25 years of age and over that moved to a different state in a given year. Available every year in September.

The net migration rate shows the number of net college-educated migrants 25 years and older per 1,000 college educated residents 25 years and older. It is calculated as (I-E)/P*1,000, where I is number of state college-educated in-migrants 25 years and older, E is the number of state college educated out-migrants 25 years and older, and P is the average state college educated population 25 years of age and over in the reference year (Pi) and the previous year (Pi-1).

Workforce Education Level: Data obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (Table B15001):
Workforce is defined as the population ages 25 to 65. State computations are based on one-year data. Regional computations are based on five-year data. State data available every year in September. Regional data available every year in December.

Science and Engineering Employment: Data obtained from National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Indicators 2016 (Table 8-34):
S&E occupations are defined by 77 standard occupational codes that encompass mathematical, computer, life, physical, and social scientists; engineers; and post-secondary teachers in any of these S&E fields. People with job titles such as “manager” are excluded. Because of this difference and the sample-based nature of the data, estimates for sparsely populated states and the District of Columbia may be imprecise. Available every two years in January.

Entrepreneurship Education and Experience:  Data obtained from the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT)’s spring 2016 University Survey. Based on responses from the College of William and Mary, Eastern Virginia Medical School, George Mason University, James Madison University, Old Dominion University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Tech. 

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