smarty babyDid you know that only about 6 percent of US grads leave college with a STEM based degree? When you take a look at Germany (28%), South Korea (37%) and China at a whopping 47% percent, you might start to get worried, especially with experts and workforce analysts predicting an even greater fissure between grads and jobs in the future.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) matters to recruiters because it matters to employers. It matters to employers because it helps them compete on a global scale. If there are no qualified individuals available to fill the jobs for which employers are increasingly able to forecast their need, then who will? Obviously qualified folks, and not necessarily from the United States.

National labor statistics reveal a gap between STEM jobs and potential employees that will only grow wider if trends continue unchanged:

 STEM jobs are projected to grow twice as quickly as jobs in other fields in the next five years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics.

 Eighty percent of jobs in the next decade will require significant technical skills.

 Of the 20 fastest growing occupations projected in 2014, 15 will require considerable science and/or mathematics preparation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

While colleges around the country are gearing up for more rigorous STEM training, often subsidized heavily by local philanthropists and corporations who see the veritable writing on the wall, high school graduates are often not able to take full advantage of these programs (meaning enrollments stay low) because they too are ill-prepared.

“Only one in five college students feel that their grade-school education prepared them very well for their STEM college courses,” says Doug Walls,’s chief information office, citing a recently published survey by Microsoft.

Also in that study? A finding that shows students who pursue STEM degrees do so because they’re inspired by a class or a teacher. And 16 percent more males than females are interested in those fields.

So how does a recruiter or hiring manager prepare for the onslaught of potentially undereducated applicants in the STEM fields? Some ideas from Walls, who often sees informally educated applicants as a great hiring opportunity:

Look for natural aptitude. Tools like Remarkable Hire, Talent Bin and Entelo are all geared to give efficient insight specifically into these kinds of jobs. Online networks and cloud hosted snippets of code can now be analyzed and sourced.

Place someone straight out of college or technical school. Use your company resources to mold someone in the web development or IT department. Online learning modules, networks and even videos can expedite learning of basic-intermediate skills like Java, PHP and Python.

Keep emerging technologies in mind. While it may be difficult to recruit a project manager with ten years of experience, that person may not have the same insight into responsive design user experience as a less formally educated or experienced person. Continuing education, especially as new technology emerges, should be at the forefront of your organization for everyone.

Community and blog learning. While informal and difficult at times to measure, the Khan Academy, CodeAcademy, GitHub, StackOverflow and even YouTube all have tremendous resources available from beginners to advanced users. Even better than the learning opportunities such sites offer, is the ability to be part of a group that learns and teaches together.

In my opinion, business owners must get involved in the economic councils in their cities and do what they can to positively affect the education paths within their communities. Many mid size cities are already doing this. The long-term goals not only affect the next generation, but generations to come.

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