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STEM Talent

2022 stem talent Index

Assessing a decade of pipeline development

executive summary

This year’s edition of the STEM Talent Index looks back at Illinois’ progress within the state’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) talent pipeline from 2012 through 2021. Examining both degree completion and the job market, findings are mixed. Illinois is one of the fastest-growing states in the top 10 for STEM degree production, although degree production has slowed slightly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And while degree production is trending upward overall, the job market has suffered a slight decline.

Though it is expected that STEM job numbers will be more robust next year, STEM fields were harder hit than their non-STEM counterparts by pandemic-related layoffs. Driven by advancements in technology and an evolving job market, STEM degree fields have grown steadily since 2012. In 2021, Illinois awarded 27,285 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in STEM areas, a record high for the state. Illinois experienced a 8% year-over-year increase between 2020 and 2021 in the number of STEM degrees completed by students in Illinois, placing the state 5th during that time period. Illinois is now the fastest-growing state in the top 10 for STEM degree production when looking at the one-year trend from 2020-2021. Perhaps most importantly, data from the National Science Foundation shows that 39% of STEM graduates in 2021 from Illinois universities were women. This is the highest composition of STEM graduates that were women in Illinois history, and puts Illinois considerably ahead of the national average of 34% for this metric.

As Illinois continues to increase its STEM degree production, there continues to be significant growth in computer and information sciences, and interdisciplinary STEM fields. However, while computer and information sciences have been one of the fastest-growing STEM subject areas in Illinois for the last 10 years, it slid to 7th place nationally, a big drop from the 3rd place ranking it held in 2019. This change is due to states that had a similar number of computer science degrees in 2019 increasing at a faster rate than Illinois. An estimated 62% of Illinois Computer and Information Science graduates remain in the state to start their careers according to data acquired from LinkedIn.

While Illinois hit a new record with the number of degrees awarded in 2021, the job market took a slight turn from the increases it experienced in 2019. Between 2020 and 2021, the number of STEM positions filled by workers dropped by just under 15,000, a 2% decrease year-over-year. Although Illinois is still ranked 7th overall in the nation for the share of its workforce involved in STEM trades, its annualized growth over the previous five-year period is -1% due to the disproportionate impact of the pandemic.

While Women, Black, and Latinx Illinoisans remain underrepresented in both STEM degrees awarded and employment in STEM jobs, there are positive takeaways as well and this story appears to be changing. This year’s report does show that Illinois’ Latinx population has made considerable gains over the past decade. In 2010, Latinx individuals made up 6% of STEM employees in Illinois, but now Latinx Illinoisans represent 10% of that total. Additionally, more women are receiving STEM degrees and starting careers in the field than ever before. Lasting inequities do, however, still remain. Many women have found it difficult to get a career started in Illinois within these fields, as is indicated by the stagnating composition of women in the STEM workforce, a figure that has hovered around 25% for the last decade.

Unfortunately, there has also been a decrease over the past decade for Black Illinoisans in both degree completions and in employment as a percentage of the total STEM workforce, a change that has been particularly pronounced over the last year. In 2019, 6% of STEM Degree Earners and around 7% of the STEM workforce were black. These fell to 4% and 6%, respectively, in 2021. This year’s Talent Index shows that there is still more work to be done to ensure all Illinoisans have access to opportunities within Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.



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2020 – Talent Index

Illinois is among the national leaders in STEM job growth over the past decade.

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2019 – Talent Index

Computer and data science lead the way. New analysis shows retention is strong among recent grads.

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2018 – Talent Index

Computer and data science lead the way. New analysis shows retention is strong among recent grads.

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2017 – Talent Index

STEM, Computer science degrees reach record high

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2016 – Talent Index

A comprehensive look at STEM degrees, talent migration, and skills in demand

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2015 – Talent Index

New analysis sheds light on STEM talent supply and demand in Illinois

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2014 – Talent Index

STEM attainment in Illinois and talent migration trends in Chicago

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2013 – Talent Index

Talent in Illinois and Chicago: Data and recent trends

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