Steering Today’s and Tomorrow’s Workers Towards STEM

students as future workers towards STEM
students as future workers towards STEM

The demand for STEM talent is high, and organizations are struggling to fill roles. We must prioritize STEM for career shifts and for our younger generations who are deciding what they want to be when they grow up.

The US Department of Education, as recently as 2018, published its STEM Education Strategic Plan, noting its priority to promote STEM studies starting in elementary education all the way up through higher educational institutions. Subsequently, the approach to STEM growth in education continues to grow through departmental sponsorship, frequent briefs, newsletters, and progress reports detailing programs coordinated between businesses, schools, and families that further the STEM agenda. At the state level, governments are legislating programs to incentivize STEM training through additional scholarship programs, grants, and partnerships with leading enterprises to encourage growth in the STEM disciplines. Plus, we’ve seen local municipalities prioritizing STEM programs through local improvement programs.

Whichever initiative is being followed, the end goal is the same: to educate the future working generation to fill the gap we are facing today and in the future for the demand for STEM roles, particularly in the tech and engineering realm. This push towards STEM education not only applies to the younger generations who will be defining their careers but also to those currently working professionals who may be redefining their careers. There are programs and opportunities for diverse audiences; in many cases, it’s a matter of communicating their benefits and availability.

As staffing providers and recruiters, we must coordinate efforts to educate workers that a career in STEM is worthwhile – and attainable.

For those that equate STEM with scientists in a lab or scientists building rockets, you are right that those are undoubtedly high-profile STEM careers. However, there are literally dozens of critical STEM-based roles across every industry vertical.

Yet, with an estimated 3.5 million STEM jobs needing to be filled by 2025, it seems we are behind the eight-ball in getting qualified talent into the pipeline for these roles. Specifically, the STEM jobs categorized for computing and engineering are set to grow significantly, with software development employment targeting a 22% growth by 2029.

Will we be ready to deliver the talent? With some important targeted messaging and a reimagining of how we evaluate candidates, we could be.

How do we provide our younger generation with the right foundation and our current workers the tools to work towards STEM?

Here are 3 ways:

  1. Leveraging multiple educational and experience paths toward STEM qualification for future workers

While we historically think of training for a STEM position to follow only a specific 4-year college trajectory, straight through to graduate studies, organizations and learning institutions have been increasingly updating their requirements to reflect both education and experience from different, non-traditional sources.

In fact, trade schools, 2-year degree institutions, and many certification programs offer an alternative route to starting or switching, to a career in STEM, specifically for tech roles. Computer support positions, Web Developers, and App developers are just a few of the roles that have reduced schooling options, putting professionals on the path quicker to gainful employment.

For staffing, in particular, it’s important to pay close attention to how we craft roles and the language used to post for new positions in order to ease stringent, sometimes even outdated, requirements for attracting talent. Working with hiring managers on zeroing in on the non-negotiable requirements vs. a laundry list of hopeful qualifications for a position can stretch the talent pipeline to include more candidates that may have been previously overlooked.

Also, for consideration, there are people working in specific tech roles that might inherently possess skills from on-the-job experience that are applicable to other in-demand roles, perhaps only needing some additional supplemental training to help them prepare for a transition. A recent article in CIO Dive noted that Network Administrators are prime candidates for parlaying their skills into a cybersecurity role. With cyber threats high on the radar for most CIOs and company leadership, being able to quickly transfer an IT pro into a pivotal, protective role in IT Security has the potential to save millions, too.

  1. Increasing STEM access to female workers and students

Studies overwhelmingly show that female students are interested but might not be getting the encouragement they need to actively pursue a STEM career. With women comprising just 27% of the STEM workforce, targeting our younger female generation for a career in STEM is the first step.

Campaigns geared towards girl students – think Girls Who Code – introduce them to this career path. Having our elementary, middle school, and high-school female students partnering with females working in the field already through mentorship programs, camps, work programs, and internships as they enter higher learning makes a STEM career seem real and attainable. In fact, “63% of middle school girls who know women in STEM feel powerful doing STEM.”

But we must make the introductions.

As staffing professionals and recruiters, we have an opportunity to invest in our local school districts to prioritize STEM education, especially for women and other underrepresented communities. Some of the small steps we can take include:

  • Attending school fairs and partnering with STEM businesses, targeting women-owned organizations to establish talent pipelines
  • Sponsoring programs and scholarships at the high school level to encourage post-secondary education in STEM for female students
  • Supporting training avenues outside of traditional schooling to deliver on-the-job experience through apprenticeships and intern roles.
  1. Creating incentives for professionals looking to make a career shift

There’s also much crossover opportunity for established professionals looking to shift gears. As nearly every industry relies on technology as its foundation, we are seeing more and more non-tech skilled professionals gain tech-business acumen that is transferrable to a STEM tech-based role. For example, with renewable energy as the wave of the future, a financial energy trader recently set their sights on trading renewables, particularly battery storage. “We are in the early days of the renewables revolution,” [says Andrew Waranch, Spearmint Energy]. “The most desirable career for top graduates has gone from banking to Silicon Valley to renewables.

Examples like the above demonstrate that new STEM opportunities abound for those interested in innovation. Plus, because of the projected need for STEM talent, there are options to pursue a career change that will deliver positive ROI.

Time-saving options like online classes and certification courses that might be needed to build resumes while working are made possible through scholarships, grants, and attractive loan options. They can help manage the financial load towards a role that could increase income by thousands. These programs are made even sweeter if the current employer funds the training in order to upskill or reskill workers for promotions and/or a job switch.

Planning for a future in STEM

STEM education and growth have been a top priority across the US for some time in order to secure our leadership position in the world and remain competitive for future workforces. With STEM roles projected to grow over 10% by the next decade, we must shift into high gear as staffing providers and recruiters to assist in increasing access to talent. Fortunately, organizations like SSi People have been specializing in STEM staffing for nearly 25 years, taking a unique approach to putting people first in their quest for meaningful work. Contact us today to learn more about the opportunities available and the support we provide to clients and consultants who explore STEM-based careers.

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