While expanded globalization is swiftly increasing the competitive landscape for most businesses, it is also creating many more opportunities (and choices) for top STEM talent. The U.S. Department of Commerce projects that STEM occupations will grow by 17 percent between 2008–2018, compared with only 9.8 percent for non-STEM fields. In addition, the nonprofit Science Pioneers, expects demand for STEM professionals to add more than 1 million jobs to the U.S. workforce over the next four years. Compare this with the number of bachelor degrees in STEM-related fields, which has remained relatively flat for nearly 20 years, and you can clearly see the talent-gap most businesses will have to deal with. To make matters worse, the U.S. Department of Education reports that only 16 percent of high school seniors are interested in pursuing STEM careers.
Employers need to pay close attention to the anticipated talent shortfall. Going forward, establishing a pipeline of qualified talent will be far less dependent on geography and far more focused on creating attractive work environments that offer top STEM talent the incentives, choices and opportunities they are seeking. Now the battle for talent, markets, innovations and information is global. People specializing in the traditional STEM fields such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are swiftly becoming the most sought-after employees.
For organizations to successfully identify, recruit, develop and retain top STEM talent they need to change their approach by focusing on the Power of Three:
Incentives: Why does anyone, do anything? Essentially, the answer is to gain something of perceived value or to avoid perceived pain. We have to incentivize people, especially women and people of color, to consider a STEM profession. Of course there are the economic incentives. In fact the average STEM salary is already nearly twice the average U.S. salary. But there are other incentives such as flexible work arrangements, part-time assignments, on-site child care, concierge services, resource groups and an overall company commitment to work-life balance.
Choices: We all have choices – we may not always like our choices – but we have them. And there is a wide range of choices associated with successfully increasing the number of people pursuing STEM careers. Think of it as a ‘choice chain’ – like a value chain or a supply chain – that ultimately must be synchronized and work in harmony to be effective. Choices must be made by legislators, business leaders, community influencers, education administrators, teachers, parents and students…and we need to encourage everyone, at every level of the ‘choice chain’ to think critically and carefully about the importance of STEM and their role in supporting and encouraging it.
Opportunities: Visionary leaders and forward-looking companies create great opportunities. That is how they secure the best talent and motivate those individuals to exceed expectations. It is as simple as that. Mentoring, training & development and stretch assignments are all great ways to ignite passion and inspire achievement, especially in populations that may not have role models. You have to design opportunities that meet people where they are and prepare them for success. This is good for the individual and good for the business.
To be competitive in the global marketplace a strong and sustainable STEM talent pipeline has to be established. Organizations that focus on the Power of Three to develop their STEM workforce will be better able to understand and leverage Incentives, provide an environment that supports informed Choices and seize the opportunity to create Opportunities.
Steve Cox leads Public Relations for Sodexo North America with $9B in annual revenue, 125,000 employees, 9,000 operating sites and 15 million consumers served daily.