How St. Louis can continue to grow the technology community from inside out — and ultimately make an impact in social justice and poverty.

By Ginger Imster (Executive Director, Arch Grants)

Can St. Louis change how philanthropic dollars are used to address poverty by leveraging emerging tech?

Yes. In the St. Louis metro area, 22 percent of all jobs require specialized knowledge in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering or math — according to a 2011 Brookings Institution study. That puts St. Louis 18th among the top 100 metro areas.

By leveraging emerging tech, St. Louis can create jobs in fields that pay a living wage. The average STEM worker in St. Louis makes $66,073 a year (2011 data), compared with $37,567 for other jobs. Brookings also counts 43,580 jobs in computer occupations in St. Louis, with 81 percent of those requiring a bachelor’s degree. Conveniently, St. Louis happens to be a great college town.

But being a great college town isn’t enough. While we have fantastic local colleges and universities, we lack consistent quality in our K – 12 programs. There hasn’t been a silver bullet to create educational equity for local youth, but improving upon existing STEM programming to build a better workforce would be a great first step.

St. Louis City has outstanding examples of programs targeting STEM programming:

  • Collegiate School of Medicine & Bioscience Magnet High School
  • City Academy; innovative STEM programming for students in grades JK – 6
  • Crossroads School
  • Gateway STEM High School
  • Hawthorne School; will open fall 2015

All of the above are located in the City of St. Louis and focus on serving students living in and around our urban core. While some are private and some are public, all are committed to helping students develop the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future regardless of zip code.

If St. Louis can scale the best of the region’s K – 12 STEM programming to benefit more students, and if our community can retain and attract more talented entrepreneurs through programs like Arch Grants, St. Louis can encourage job creation in industries that offer a living wage and completely shift how we address the persistent issues that contribute to generational poverty.

By leveraging philanthropic dollars to ignite economic development through equity-free investment in early-stage businesses, St. Louis is seeding its economic future by retaining and attracting our region’s next generation of employers and civic leaders. Connecting youth and K – 12 programs to our regional innovation districts is equally as important to St. Louis’ future if we are to resolve the fundamental issues that contribute to a lack of equity and social justice for all our citizens regardless of race and zip code.

Attention Women 2.0 readers: Catch Ginger speaking at our St. Louis City Meetup on Thursday, January 8!