November 16, 2018

Facing a STEM Talent Shortage, Many Organizations Choose to Reskill Existing Workers


From Silicon Valley to the manufacturing sector, HR and recruiting professionals are plagued by a lack of quality science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) talent, resulting in higher-than-normal salaries, creative perks and benefits, and no small amount of poaching between competitors. Businesses requiring STEM talent have also been forced to broaden their scopes of acceptable standards for such roles, according to the 2018 STEM IQ survey from staffing firm Modis.

“There simply are not enough qualified candidates to satisfy the current demand for STEM talent,” says Todd Weneck, vice president of search for Modis. “Due to this talent shortage, we’re finding that more employers are investing in — or at least considering — training programs and are more willing to hire candidates based on their potential and ability to learn, even if they don’t meet all of the technical skill requirements.”

The Desire for STEM Education

Hindsight is 20/20, and 38 percent of respondents to the Modis survey said they would go back to school in a STEM field if it guaranteed a high-paying, steady job. That number increases to 53 percent among respondents between the ages of 18 and 34.

“As our survey found, many workers are open to a career change to the STEM fields but don’t feel they have the skills to succeed and may not be able to afford additional schooling,” Weneck says. “Employers have an opportunity to hire this talent pool, and then train them on the skills needed for the job.”

Business leaders who find themselves in desperate need of STEM talent might consider investing in reskilling opportunities for existing non-STEM employees or creating other pathways that will attract applicants interested in retraining in STEM.

Ideally, however, the responsibility for STEM training would be shared between businesses and the public education system. As it stands, many feel that the US education system is failing to keep pace with demand for STEM talent. There is not universal agreement on this point, however: While 58 percent of respondents to Modis’s survey felt education was not up to par, 65 percent of survey respondents who already work in STEM careers felt that US education does keep pace with STEM demand.

Whatever the case, it’s fair to assume there is room for improvement. After all, the talent shortage is real.

“Fostering STEM skills in early education is important, as many concepts crucial to STEM are highly sought after in the world of work, such as hard skills dealing with technology or soft skills like critical thinking, curiosity, and teamwork,” Weneck says. “Whether or not these students go on to pursue a STEM career, it is likely that exposure to these skills will benefit them in the future, especially as jobs become more technology-centered.”

If You’re Happy and You Know It Work in STEM

“At the end of the day, many people want to feel like their time spent at work is adding value to the world,” Weneck says. “[STEM] workers are adding value to their organizations and are at the forefront of major transformation. Because STEM fields are advancing so quickly, [people working in these roles] are truly doing groundbreaking work across organizations and industries around the globe. ”

High pay and opportunity were listed as the top two reasons that respondents to the Modis survey would change careers to a STEM field. These factors are also commonly associated with employees who feel satisfied and engaged at work, which suggests STEM fields may not struggle as much with high disengagement levels.

In fact, 90 percent of respondents working in STEM claim to be happy in their current jobs, according to Modis. If you are looking to make a career change, perhaps one of the STEM fields is the right fit for you.

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Jason McDowell holds a BS in English from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. By day, he works as a mild-mannered freelance writer and business journalist. By night, he spends time with his wife and dogs, writes novels and short stories, and tries in vain to catch up on all of those superhero television shows.