The fact that worldwide we have a major shortage of highly skilled technical profiles is well-known. There is a huge lack of talent in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and this shortage is only expected to increase over the next years. Employers are fighting for the best talent but the talent pipeline is limited. And, also in the USA, we are really struggling with filling technical vacancies with the right profiles. Although we are nowhere close to solving this problem, there are actually some initiatives in our country to deal with the STEM shortage:
Showing students the value of STEM careers
Education in our country is currently not sufficiently linked to the industry meaning that colleges graduate students with different skill sets that employers require. In addition, many students don´t really grasp what a STEM career is about and therefore choose very generic studies which are obviously not enough for the highly technical profiles that are so sought after in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Therefore, companies, universities, high schools and governmental bodies need to work together more in order to not only prepare students better but also to motivate them to choose for technical studies. In some areas, this collaboration is already successfully happening (for example, think about Silicon Valley where Stanford, Berkeley and other schools work closely with employers to make sure students have the right profiles for the jobs in that area), whereas in others we still have a long way to go. Another good example is STEM ambassadors, where senior profiles with a career in STEM go to schools to talk to students about their work and the career possibilities in the field. This makes it much more tangible for students and therefore it increases the likelihood of them choosing a more, specific study direction if STEM interests them.
Closing the gender gap
In STEM, the gender gap is probably wider than in many other industries. This obviously has to do with the low female / male ratio in technical studies but also the perceived lack of opportunities for females in the tech industry and the lack of role models play a part here. Unfortunately, part of this can already be traced back to a very young age, where the typical girls’ toys often don´t have anything to do with STEM and the toys that are considered for boys do have quite some STEM-related options. Fortunately, progress is being made on this front; toys are getting more gender neutral and girls are being especially encouraged to choose tech studies through programs and competitions in high schools focused on pushing more girls into the field.
Access to foreign talent
With solely American talent we won´t be able to cover the shortage of STEM profiles in the upcoming years, we need access to foreign talent as well. Although it is increasingly difficult for foreigners to get the right papers to work in the US, companies are making a specific effort to attract the best talent to work for them, although sometimes the only solution is to have them work from overseas. Our visa process still has some progress to make before we can be truly successful.
Although a significant effort is being made to deal with the increasing demand for highly technical profiles and the big lack of appropriate skill sets for these positions, we still have a long way to go. What do you think the US is currently doing about the STEM shortage and what else do you think we, as a country, should be doing? We would love to read your thoughts in the comments section!