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  • Writer's pictureLayne Daniels

How to Attract and Hire STEM Talent

Attract STEM talent for your business.

In today’s workforce, most companies find themselves in need of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent for the simple reason that technology tends to play a major part in anything an organization does including employee onboarding, using and monitoring social media, product design, and more. Because of this strong reliance on STEM fields, many employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find, attract and engage candidates with STEM qualifications.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM fields represented 6.2% of all U.S. employment (nearly 8.6 million jobs), and are steadily growing at a rate of 28.2%. Compare that with the 6.5% average projected growth for all occupations and you get a field that is growing significantly faster than any other occupational group. On top of that, STEM employment is projected to grow by 8.9% annually through 2024. These statistics attest to the burgeoning need for STEM talent, and consequently, the shortage of STEM-qualified candidates.

So how do you make your organization stand out among your competitors? Developing an effective strategy for filling a STEM pipeline and your currently available STEM positions is critical to your company’s sustainability in the highly competitive job market we experience today.

Here are a few tips:

1. Highlight Your Company’s Purpose Beyond Profit

Today’s workforce has made it abundantly clear that they are interested in working for companies with a social conscious instead of those that concentrate only on maximizing profits. STEM candidates often look for jobs with companies that have a social element in their mission and values statements. According to a recent Cone Communications study, 75 percent of millennials would accept a pay cut, if that is what it took to work for a socially responsible company. Because millennials currently make up the largest labor group, roughly 35% of today’s workforce, it's important to tailor your company’s environment towards social responsibility if you want to attract the majority of STEM talent currently available.

Be sure to express your company's positive impact on anyone who comes in contact with it, directly or indirectly. Make it tangible to engage all employees and retain new hires. In the end, purpose-driven organizations tend to have greater financial results, which also attracts top talent and serves as a draw for the STEM talent your company needs.

2. Take Advantage of Community Colleges

Many organizations exclusively target elite schools that offer STEM degrees, like Stanford and MIT, while ignoring other places where highly qualified STEM graduates can be found. These can include local community colleges which consistently turn out highly qualified STEM talent.

Most STEM jobs do not require a four-year degree, making community colleges major providers of STEM talent. Community colleges are always tapping into student populations and working collaboratively with high schools and employers.

Additionally, across the United States, many community colleges are beginning to start STEM programs with state and federal grants, and private funding. This includes partnering with high schools, private businesses, and nonprofits to design STEM education programs that encourage more students to choose STEM disciplines. The American Association of Community Colleges, for example, greatly contributes to the National Science Foundation's Advanced Technological Education (ATE) activities. The ATE Program focuses on improving educational programs for STEM technicians, and community colleges are a major source of that education.

3. Partner Up

Rather than recruiting freshly graduated STEM candidates, it is a good idea to proactively partner your organization with STEM-focused organizations or industry groups in order to create a stream of STEM talent that is suited to your specific needs. Such collaborative partnerships provide the opportunity to contribute and influence the design of training programs that, in turn, can produce candidates with the specific skills your organization may be looking for. These programs can sometimes include real-world problem solving, allowing the program to foster new and innovative ideas for your business.

Internships also play a big role in these partnerships as companies often offer STEM internships to engage future employees in the company before they have finished their program. Your company can also contact STEM associations, like the Association for Women in Science, the National Association of Black Engineers or the Association of Information Technology Professionals, to gain access to some of the best up and coming STEM talent currently available.

4. Highlight Employee Benefits Through An Employee Value Proposition

Regardless of where you find a potential employee, a good candidate will have multiple companies vying for their attention. This is why it’s important to highlight the benefits and career growth you can offer potential employees.

An employee value proposition (EVP) plays a major part in making your company stand out from the crowd. It will be the biggest draw for any sought after candidate as it will showcase the contributions an employee can make to your organization and the tangible rewards you can offer in return. Rewards included in an EVP can include wages, benefits and perks, and recognition of contributions. It’s important to design each EVP so that it is unique for each position. For example, an EVP for a program developer will be different than the EVP for IT personnel. Learn what your potential STEM talent finds valuable and make sure these are emphasized and offered in your EVP.

All in all, STEM candidates are looking for growth, innovative work, the ability to make an impact, and opportunities for rapid professional development. Attracting and hiring STEM talent can be challenging but it's important to look at these challenges as opportunities to redesign talent management and recruitment strategies within your organization. Prove to each candidate that you understand his or her value and make any opportunity worthwhile, and your company will stand out in the eyes any prospective recruits.

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