Building the Future Through STEM [Podcast]

STEM, an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, will greatly affect the future of work. STEM is at the core of innovative technologies, driving not just the success of businesses, but medical advancements, education, and more.

The demand for tech workers and engineers is especially growing, and some worry that our educational system isn’t keeping up. When the time comes for current technical talent to retire, how can we prepare upcoming generations to take over?

Our Guest: Speaker, Author, and Futurist Rachael Mann

I was excited to welcome back Rachael Mann for a second time to the #WorkTrends podcast. Rachael is a futurist with a passion for tech and science. She frequently speaks at events across the country, channeling her 14 years of classroom teaching experience to lecture on topics ranging from disruptive technology, education, and careers. She is the author of The Spaces You Will Go, co-authored the book Martians in Your Classroom, is a founding member of the Council on the Future of Education, president-elect for the NCLA executive board, and vice-president of New and Related Services for ACTE.

One of the biggest issues STEM faces right now is education, says Rachael. Basically, schools should offer it as a part of their curriculum to make young people aware of its existence. And there need to be more opportunities for experts to teach it.

“We need to offer the right education in order for kids to be interested in STEM. But we also need the right teachers,” Rachael says. “And I think that really has a huge impact on the workforce. Students aren’t seeing science, engineering, math, and tech role models or understanding what opportunities are out there for them.”

Of course, parents play a vital role in inspiring future generations to get into STEM too.

“There are so many free resources available to parents with hands-on, fun activities. Give kids books with characters that they can relate to who are interested in science and tech. I wrote a children’s book called The Spaces You’ll Go about a little girl named Cass with her kangaroo robot, and they’re exploring space-related careers,” Rachael says. “These kinds of activities allow children to envision themselves someday in a field that they’re curious about.”

STEM: Our Future May Depend on It

By incorporating STEM into education, kids can learn from a young age that their work can have a positive impact. This early exposure can get them passionate about big world issues moving forward.

“Whether it’s this global pandemic, cybersecurity attacks … overpopulation, renewable energy,  anti-aging therapies, there are just so many problems connected to STEM,” Rachael says. “And when it comes down to it, those big problems offer the biggest opportunities for young people to change the world through their careers.”

Of course, while a lot of technical and scientific knowledge comes with STEM skill development, it’s important to focus on the human aspects of the fields as well. After all, we’re using STEM to improve life on Earth and our interactions and connections with each other.

“We have to be more human,” Rachael says. “As we think about technology and advancing the world, it’s more important than ever to focus on humanity and the skills that can’t be replaced by robots or technology.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about technology, science, and STEM education by connecting with Rachael Mann on LinkedIn.

Photo: ThisisEngineering RAEng

Hiring Tech Talent? Tap this Overlooked Pipeline

Over the past decade, and even more so in our current economic state, more areas of life have become increasingly digitized. That evolution has certainly affected hiring practices. Applicant training systems, for instance, can collect, sort, and rank thousands of résumés, automatically surfacing top candidates for any given role. Chatbots can engage, source, and screen candidates based on a set of predetermined metrics like skills and education.

But with all of these advancements in recruiting and hiring, one thing has remained relatively stagnant: credential requirements. Most companies still require candidates to have a college degree. But in industries like technology, where the way people learn new skills is rapidly evolving, that requirement is creating a barrier.

Traditional hiring practices simply can’t keep up with the tech industry’s increasing talent needs. Sure, some aspiring tech workers are still taking the conventional education-to-job pathway by obtaining computer science degrees. But fewer than 60,000 computer science graduates enter the market each year, and that’s a tiny talent pool for companies to compete over.

Still, many qualified, talented technologists who took different routes to learn their skills are screened out of the hiring process due to companies’ outdated hiring criteria. Employers would do themselves a favor by opening up their minds and candidate criteria to other options.

Alternative Talent Pipelines

On top of producing a low supply of workers for a field with high demand for talent, many traditional colleges and universities are often hamstrung in evolving their curriculums. They just can’t do it fast enough to keep up with the evolving skills employers are looking for. It’s simply not feasible to change course curriculum as quickly as computer programming languages change.

Take JavaScript, for example. It’s become an extremely popular language for web development over the past couple of years. To secure a job in the field, you need to know not only JavaScript, but also frameworks like Angular or React. Yet these frameworks are changing almost every year, putting colleges and universities with inflexible curriculums at a huge disadvantage. It often takes more than a year to get the approvals necessary to change the curriculum.

Other tech training programs, however, like online courses or in-person boot camps, can more quickly pivot their curriculum to match changes in industry trends, equipping students with the right skills to meet employer needs. For this reason, alternative skilling programs can also produce talent much quicker than two- or four-year degree programs.

Alternative skilling programs have the flexibility to accelerate curriculum and churn out qualified programmers in mere months. They give students the basic skills they need to jump into a tech role. Then, employees are expected to learn on the job — a huge advantage to any company looking to shape unique skill sets, especially when 87% of IT executives are struggling to find skilled technology professionals today.

On top of developing relevant skills from a more agile learning environment more quickly, many alternative training graduates possess additional capabilities that can benefit employers. Here are a few:

Broader Life Experience

Graduates from nontraditional backgrounds often bring unmatched life experience into their new careers. Alternative coding students often enter programs with a breadth of different backgrounds — both vocational and educational. In fact, many already have college degrees in nontechnical fields and have enrolled in tech training programs to explore a career change.

Whereas two- or four-year college graduates likely just left home to go to college and then went straight into job searching, nontraditional students have had different life experiences that grant them additional perspectives and soft skills to bring to the table.

For example, a single mother who graduates from a coding boot camp is likely to be an excellent multitasker, as she’s raised her child while coordinating her education on her own. Or a former restaurant manager who joined an alternative training program to explore an interest in tech is likely to have strong leadership and managerial skills that a recent college grad may not possess.

Built-in Tenacity

Graduates from an alternative training program have already proven themselves by finishing the course. Many alternative training programs remove barriers such as high tuition costs. This means that the training becomes accessible to a wider pool of tech-interested people. It also means anyone who joins a program can drop out with fewer financial consequences than they could in a two- or four-year degree program — resulting in individuals who’ve demonstrated immense drive and hard work.

That presents a built-in vetting process. People who successfully complete free or low-cost training programs prove their grit and tenacity — especially considering that many are taking care of children or working full-time on the side. These kinds of traits are important in tech job candidates.

Many of these learners are also career-changers. They left one career to pursue a true interest in technology, which means they’ve demonstrated drive simply by taking the risk to enter a new career field.

Industry-Relevant Skills

Graduates from nontraditional learning pathways are often equipped with specific, industry-relevant skills. Because alternative training programs tend to be more nimble when it comes to curriculum, they can easily adapt to teach the specific skills employers are looking for. Many programs even ask companies what skills they’re in need of — both current and future — to ensure students learn the proper ones.

For example, our organization recently switched the core language taught in our flagship LC101 course, moving from Python to JavaScript after assessing the skills needed by our hiring partners. We’re also able to train a cohort of students specifically for a company experiencing difficulty hiring those hard-to-find skill sets. Given that 33% of companies report problems in finding qualified candidates to fill open tech positions, alternative training programs may be the answer for sourcing talent.

Of course, college graduates with relevant skills should always be a part of the eligible hiring pool. But with the demand for entry-level talent being so much greater than what traditional pathways are producing, it’s time for hiring managers to diversify their recruitment strategies to give other talented technologists a shot. They’re likely to be pleasantly surprised by the talent and promise candidates from a variety of education and experience backgrounds can bring to their businesses.

Closing the STEM Gap: Promoting Gender Equity at All Levels

According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, although women make up half of the total college-educated workforce in the U.S., they only comprise 29 percent of the workforce in science and engineering-related fields. Part of the reason for this seems tied to students’ choices of majors, at the undergraduate level: the most recent statistics from the National Science Foundation indicate that women receive only 17.9 percent of bachelor’s degrees in computer science, and only 19.3 percent of engineering degrees.

Why the persistent gender gap, you may ask? Part of the reason seems to be tied to cultural norms while in school; then, after graduation, workplace culture. Knowing this,how, specifically, do we address the issue? Many of the articles and analyses of the problem ended with a vague call-to-action to “Do better” or “Be more inclusive,” while ignoring specific ways STEM-based workplaces might make themselves more welcoming and inclusive toward women. There is a resource I came across in my research that I found particularly illuminating: it’s called “Advancing Women in Tech-Intensive Industries: Transforming Organizational Cultures,” published by an organization called White Men as Full Diversity Partners.

The resource offers specific suggestions such as altering the language in job descriptions and recruiting documents, and revising talent management systems to include more extensive training and development opportunities for women. WMFDP also suggests making sure women are well-represented as supervisors and trainers throughout the advancement process, encouraging women to stay by cultivating a culture of respect and inclusiveness, and offering re-entry and re-training programs for employees who leave on temporary hiatus to care for their families.

The first step, then, seems to be to implement a diversity-minded plan from the top down, as well as throughout the organization. Such change also requires adjustments in HR policy with regard to diversity training for management. Lastly, it seems crucial that there be policies in place to ensure a minimum percentage of female representation at all levels, so as to ensure a welcoming and supportive environment for women throughout the organization—because, let’s face it, change isn’t going to magically happen via good intentions and some vague notion of “awareness.”

Take, for example, the impending reductions in workplace safety regulations. This is a technical field with broad overlap with HR-related oversight and operations-related management. The creation of an additional internal health and safety professional who is able to make up for the lack of OSHA funding, in this case, is warranted—assuming your workplace involves a warehouse, factory, or manufacturing component. Companies can entrust their Hazard Communication program to the internal health and safety professional, who should oversee employee training related to workplace hazards and how to prevent them. For example, the internal safety specialist position could be combined with that of a sustainability director; this person may then be tasked with educating management in a manufacturing field on the environmental and health-related benefits of oil-free air compressors—as opposed to regenerative air dryers.

Another possible position for women in STEM fields is a corporate representative who reaches out to girls at a relatively young age—around middle school or junior high school grades—and serves as an ambassador to schools. In addition to giving educational presentations to classrooms, they might serve as coordinators of job shadowing programs that bring young women into the workplace and offers a glimpse of what it’s like to work as a software engineer, for example. Despite persistent gender inequality in STEM-related fields, Stacey Mabray, faculty member at the college of education at Concordia University, notes, “There are initiatives that push for inclusion such as Girls Code Camps and Sisters Science Clubs.”

One particular coding organization designed for young women, Girls Who Code, has enjoyed widespread success by reaching out to girls at a time in their lives when interest in computer programs begins to drop off: between the ages of thirteen and seventeen. They’ve started after school clubs and summer immersion programs to make educational outreach more accessible and convenient for school-age girls, as well. Most importantly, they’ve reached out to tech companies like AT&T and Adobe to establish internship programs and other career-related opportunities for alumni of the program.

Managers responsible for Research & Development instruction and supervision can take a cue from Harvey Mudd, a STEM-focused college that completely revised the computer science curriculum in 2005, leading to its current rate of computer science majors among female graduates: 55 percent. They did so by placing women in leadership positions, overhauling the computer science curriculum, and having faculty encourage students to utilize office hours, rather than ask questions in class—one way that more talkative students dominate discussion time, inadvertently at others’ expense. Because more women leave the introductory programming course with a positive impression, a larger number of women ultimately decide to major in computer science.

There are a few good reasons why the current labor force is in need of more women pursuing careers in STEM-related disciplines. While men tend to solve problems in a linear fashion, women are more likely to think holistically—which can help with project management, strict deadlines, and meeting the expectations of clients; this difference in problem solving increases the diversity and innovation of the tech world. Women also stand to benefit because they are exposed to fun, rewarding, and creative opportunities not present in other fields—as well as higher salaries, which would help alleviate the persistent gender-wage gap. Lastly, women can introduce technology into fields like healthcare and education, two fields that have historically been popular with women, in order to become more successful.

*   *   *

We need more Margaret Hamiltons to help inspire little girls to be interested in space exploration, as well as women like Kathleen Hogan, an HR executive at Microsoft who is working to close the gender gap in pay at her company. By working together throughout all levels of a company, we can continue to find ways to ensure that women are well-represented in STEM-related fields—which will, in turn, promote a more diverse and innovative future that reflects all of us.

Photo Credit: Fulbright Ireland Flickr via Compfight cc

STEM, Advanced Industries, and The Future of Employment. – Part 1

The marketing SVP I was sitting next to leaned close and whispered “what’s stem?”

He seemed a little hesitant to admit that he didn’t know what the term meant to the rest of the table, but as everyone was busy arguing about AI and robots replacing all of our jobs someday soon, he saw an opening and took a chance. The term had bounced back and forth across the table a few times: Stem this and stem that. Was it a biotech thing? Genetic-engineering jobs? (Because stem cells, I expect.) Some kind of government tech education program?

“S.T.E.M.,” I said. “Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.”

“Ohhhhh,” he replied with a grin. “Tech jobs.”

Right. Tech jobs. Sort of. Not just tech jobs, but definitely the kinds of jobs most prized by companies right now, at least at scale.

A little background: I had just spent a chunk of my time on my flight to DFW reading up on global macroeconomic trends, and particularly how they relate to shifts in job creation around the world. (I have real hobbies, I promise, but I’m also kind of curious about a lot of tech-related topics. It kind of comes with the job.) So anyway, there I was, wondering if my newly STEM-enlightened neighbor would feel super psyched about scoring an impromptu mini-course in how STEM jobs impacted employment trends, and what we might infer about the US job market between now and 2025 given the shift to post industrialized… um… Yeah, no. He seemed like a nice enough guy, so we segued to HBO’s Westworld instead, and specifically how much of the hosts’ processes would have to be handled in the cloud, because that seemed less nerdy somehow.

Know your audience, they say.

Still though, this whole national job creation thing (which was a major piece of the presidential election discussion), and STEM, and IoT, and AI, and manufacturing vs tech… The convergence of these interconnected topics is filled with really interesting insights and catalysts for big ideas; so while my single-serving Marketing exec friend might not have been all that interested in employment data, or how STEM fields might play a part in creating a lot of new jobs in our increasingly digital economy, I find the topic particularly relevant to the world of digital transformation that we dig into here a little deeper every day.

Let me frame it in a way that will make the most sense. A lot of what we talk about here touches on the future of work: the impact of the cloud, big data, cognitive computing, the digital workforce, AI, VR, the IoT (and the IIoT), advanced analytics, 3D Printing, mobility, etc. – the tools and processes and methodologies – and how they are already shaping how companies will operate as our world transitions from yesterday’s operational models to new business models run party on ubiquitous, ambient, intelligent technologies. In other words, we usually focus on outlining and explaining various key aspects of the operational building blocks of Digital Transformation.

The topic that we are introducing today is a macro version of that. Instead of the future of work, its focus is the future of employment. Specifically: what type of impact will advanced industries and STEM jobs ultimately have on the job market? Will they help create more jobs than they eliminate? Will they help drive more economic value than other industries and job categories? Will they trigger an upheaval of the job market, and consequently force a reboot of how we approach education, both K-12 and job training? What will be the impact of these changes on the business world? How might companies, large and small, not only protect themselves from this wave of disruption, but take advantage of it to gain a strategic advantage in their respective markets?

These are the types of questions that we will try to answer in this series. For now though, let’s establish a set of baselines we will come back to in future discussions.

A Quick Introduction to Advanced Industries

The best place to start, as always, is at the beginning, and the beginning, in this instance, isn’t actually Digital Transformation, it’s Advanced Industries. The term refers to roughly fifty industries heavily centered around STEM and R&D. Among these industries are familiar ones like wireless telecommunications, computer systems design, automotive, healthcare, aerospace, biotech, household appliances, and so on.

  • 35 of these industries fall into the manufacturing sector. (This is important, so make a mental note of it.)
  • 12 qualify as Service industries (software publishers, wireless carriers, medical and diagnostic labs, etc.).
  • 3 fall into the Energy sector. They are: electric power generation, mining, and oil and gas extraction.

That’s right: 35 out of the 50 Advanced Industries are in the manufacturing sector. That’s more than two thirds. As we note the impact that the erosion of manufacturing jobs has had on the American middle class and the economic stress it has wreaked on blue collar workers, that’s an insight that caught my attention. So here it is: Insight number one – Over two thirds of Advanced Industries are in the Manufacturing sector.

Next, I wanted to find out how that translated into net jobs. The most recent numbers I had on hand were from 2013, but they broke down like this (rounded up or down for simplicity):

  • Advanced Industries – Services (12/50): 6.2 million jobs.
  • Advanced Industries – Manufacturing (35/50): 5.5 million jobs.
  • Advanced Industries – Energy (3/50): 700,000 jobs.

Two quick observations. The first: That’s all? (It didn’t seem like a lot.) The second: The ratio of jobs per industry category (Services vs. Manufacturing) looks pretty uneven. How can 12 industries produce more jobs than 35?

I know why. It’s a reaction, not an actual question. Rather than go off into a windy tangent on the ratio of manufacturing to services jobs, let me paint a quick picture about the evolution of the manufacturing space in recent years with two eye-opening factoids:

  1. Back in 1980, it took 25 jobs to generate $1M in manufacturing output. Today, it only takes 5 jobs to do that.
  2. A spot-welder costs an average of $25 per hour. A spot-welding robot only costs an average of $8 per hour.

It doesn’t take an economist to figure out where this is going. This leads us to insight number two: If you currently work in advanced industry manufacturing, and you already know that a robot can do your job at least as well as you can (if not better or faster), you may want to consider engineering a transition to a related advanced industry services field.

Naturally, my next question hovered around job growth and trends in advanced industries: Overall, are those jobs growing, shrinking, or staying flat? Is there an opportunity here for job growth on a mass scale that the general public may not be aware of? Let’s look at the numbers:

  • Advanced Industry Jobs (US) in 1980: 11.3 million
  • Advanced Industry Jobs (US) in 2000: 11.3 million
  • Advanced Industry Jobs (US) in 2013: 12.3 million
  • Advanced Industry Jobs (US) in 2015: 12.9 million

That’s a significant uptick since 2000, but unfortunately it isn’t exactly keeping up with overall employment numbers, or driving significant job growth:

  • Total employment (US) in 1980: 97.5 million
  • Total employment (US) in 2000: 135.6 million
  • Total employment (US) in 2013: 141.8 million
  • Total employment (US) in 2015: 143.1 million

To put this in perspective, advanced industry’s share of US jobs has shrunk, not grown, since 1980:

  • Advanced Industries’ share of employment (US) in 1980: 11.6%
  • Advanced Industries’ share of employment (US) in 2000: 8.3%
  • Advanced Industries’ share of employment (US) in 2013: 8.7%
  • Advanced Industries’ share of employment (US) in 2015: 9.0%

What’s interesting though, is that for the same time period, advanced industries’ share of output has been steadily growing:

  • Advanced Industries’ share of economic output (US) in 1980: 14.3%
  • Advanced Industries’ share of economic output (US) in 2000: 16.8%
  • Advanced Industries’ share of economic output (US) in 2013: 17.7%
  • Advanced Industries’ share of economic output (US) in 2015: 17.2%

Industry chart

According to The Brookings Institution, advanced industries have increased their productivity by roughly 2.7%/year since 1980, while the rest of the economy has increased its average productivity by an average of 1.4%/year. Following a similar trend line, advanced industries jobs now average $214,000 per worker worth of output compared with $108,000 for the average worker outside of advanced industries. And finally, while earnings for an advanced industries worker averaged $95K in 2015, workers in other sectors only averaged $53K/year. When we graph that data, we get this:

year on year growth chart

Also worthy of note: while advanced industries only account for less than 10% of US jobs, they are responsible for generating a whopping 60% of US exports, and their combined output accounted for a massive 17.2% of US GDP in 2015.

job share

Now let’s break things down to a more granular level: Advanced industries are made up of 50 different industry subsets. Are some of these subsets performing better than others in terms of job creation and overall growth? Have some been struggling? Let’s take a look:

50 different industry subsets

Insight number three: Nearly 80% of new advanced industries jobs between 2013 and 2015  – roughly 480,000 new jobs – were created in services industries, not manufacturing.

Insight number four: Nearly two thirds of that growth – roughly 307,000 new jobs – were created in four specific industry categories:

  • Computer systems design
  • Web search and internet publishing
  • Software products
  • Data processing and hosting

Do those four industry categories sound familiar? If you spend any time at all browsing through our insights and reports, they should. They are the sectors driving Digital Transformation.

Shifting back to blue collar jobs for a moment, advanced manufacturing industries didn’t do nearly as well between 2013 and 2015, but they still managed to contribute roughly 132,200 new jobs (about 20% of the overall advanced industry job growth). It could be better, but it could also be a lot worse. Here is the most interesting part: If you have been following the auto industry’s shift to electric vehicles and advanced navigation/self-driving systems in the last couple of years, you may not be surprised to learn that nearly 70% of those new manufacturing jobs (roughly 95,000) came from that sector.

Here’s a breakdown of how the entire ecosystem looks like:

ecosystem breakdown chart

Some Parting Observations

That’s probably enough data for one sitting. Now, let’s spend a few minutes thinking about all of this. What can we infer from the data we just looked at?

  1. On the whole, Advanced Industries appear to generate roughly twice as much economic value per worker as non-advanced industries.
  2. The highest proportion of new jobs in advanced industries can be found in digital services (what people generally refer to as “tech” jobs).
  3. Automobile manufacturing is showing the highest job growth of all advanced manufacturing sectors.
  4. While digital transformation and technological disruption are driving the growth of advanced industries, advanced industries, in turn, are both shaping the Digital Transformation landscape and controlling the speed of technological disruption.
  5. Speaking of technological disruption, advanced industries don’t operate in a vacuum. They impact millions of businesses by creating products and services that boost down-channel capacity, productivity, and profitability. (The impact of Digital Transformation.) There is an economic multiplier effect at work here that we will return to in a moment.
  6. On the opposite side of that business ecosystem is a complex supply chain that allows advanced industries to operate. Another multiplier effect can be observed there.

The first of these multiplier effects is far more difficult to measure than the second, so let’s start with the second: the supply chain. It is estimated that 2.2 jobs are created in support off every advanced industry job. (0.8 locally, and 1.4 outside of the region.) That means that we can add an additional 28.4 million support jobs to the 12.9 million advanced industry jobs in the US – for a total of 41.3 million jobs. Based on the 143.1 million figure we used earlier, that accounts for 29% of all jobs.

The second of these multiplier effects will require its own article, but until then, consider this: The application of new information and communication technologies (or ICT for short) has been demonstrably responsible for more than 1/3 of all labor productivity growth between 2002 and 2012 in non-advanced industries (like retail, business services, hospitality, etc.). As ICT become increasingly vital to every vertical and business discipline through the diffusion of Digital Transformation, the the compounded impact of the advanced industry sector’s innovation on the overall capacity, productivity, and profitability of US businesses will continue to increase.

Translation: A handful of key advanced industries are currently at the center of a tectonic shift of new job creation in the US – a first wave, if you will, whose ripples could feed industries around it if those industries are prepared to take advantage of them.

We’ll pick up where we left off in Part 2. For now, take this all in, let these numbers settle, and perhaps even take a moment to marvel at the dynamic connective tissue between the macroeconomic forces shaping the future of employment and the technological ones shaping the future of work.



A version of this was first posted on


#WorkTrends Recap: How Academia and Business Support STEM

The world of education and business are at a precipice in relation to what we need to keep our economy chugging along without slowing down the advancements needed to remain an economic leader.

This week Meghan M. Biro was joined by guest Rachael Mann to discuss the intricacies around how academia and business can and should work collaboratively in supporting our growing need for more technically trained people.

They also talked about why the STEM initiative was developed and more importantly, how we can encourage female students to pursue STEM careers.

Here are a few key points that Rachael shared:

  • We need to equip teachers with the tools to prepare students for real life in STEM
  • Parents play an active role in encouraging their children to pursue STEM careers
  • If employers don’t take an active role in encouraging students to pursue STEM careers then they won’t have employees in the future

Did you miss the show? You can listen to the #WorkTrends podcast on our BlogTalk Radio channel here:

You can also check out the highlights of the conversation from our Storify here: <a

Didn’t make it to this week’s #WorkTrends show? Don’t worry, you can tune in and participate in the podcast and chat with us every Wednesday from 1-2pm ET (10-11am PT). On Dec 7, I will be joined by Mr. Kelly Max, CEO of Haufe, to discuss the cutting-edge topic of workplace democracy.

Remember, the TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following our #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members; or check out our Google+ community. Engage with us any time on our social networks, or stay current with trending World of Work topics on our website or through our weekly email newsletter.

Photo Credit: HoursDeOuvre Flickr via Compfight cc

How Does STEM Bring the Real World to the Classroom?

In education, a gap remains between what students are learning, and what business and industry need their employees to know and be able to do. The U.S. Department of Labor has identified multiple factors as to why a skills gap exists, some of which can be addressed prior to students graduating high school, such as ensuring that students know where shortages exist and providing guidance as to how to prepare for these in-demand jobs. CareerOneStop cites a shortage of graduates for “in-demand jobs in healthcare, engineering, computer science, and advanced manufacturing,” all of which are STEM related fields.  According to the 2016 STEM Index, in 2014-2015, there were 230,246 additional STEM jobs, but only 30,835 additional STEM graduates. Creating a STEM foundation prior to high school graduation is pivotal for ensuring an increase in individuals pursuing STEM-related postsecondary degrees and careers.

I recently had the opportunity to visit businesses through an event called Lesson2Life in Phoenix, Arizona and meet with employers to find out ways to better equip students to enter the workforce. A reoccurring theme that was expressed over and over again was the need for students to have a strong understanding of STEM areas.  Schools such as Western School of Science and Technology are addressing this need by focusing on STEM areas and preparing students for engineering and computer science jobs. Nonprofit organizations such as the CREATE Center provide a low-cost location for educators and students to engage in a massive MakerSpace in order learn about and experience STEM first-hand as they use state-of-the-art tools such as 3-D printers, laser cutters, and other technology tools to collaborate and learn how to create our future world.

Last week, my co-worker shared how her daughter, Bella, had won 3rd place in a shark tank competition hosted by the local high school DECA and STEM student organizations. Elementary students were invited to create a product that solved a problem for this shark tank event. Students had the option of entering this classroom assignment into a Shark Tank competition. Bella, who is currently a 6th grader, decided to take her “Wafer Saver” invention to the next level, and not only won a $100 third place cash prize but also won an opportunity to meet with a patent attorney to learn more about entrepreneurship and product creation.

This is what STEM education is all about. Promoting a new product involves science, calculations, engineering, and technology—all of the STEM areas plus marketing and soft skills in one project! STEM education infiltrates every subject and career area. What career field doesn’t require at least one STEM area in order to be successful? Most require multiple areas if not all. STEM education is key to closing the skills gap.

Derek Ozkal, program officer in Research and Policy for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, shares that, “In the American workforce, a tremendous amount of human potential is underutilized.” He points out that teachers have no way of knowing the type of work students will be doing in five years due to rapid technological changes and points out that titles like “Big Data Architect” and “Android Developer” weren’t around five years ago, how can we possibly know what the next five years will hold?

With the uncertainty about future career opportunities, learning STEM fundamentals and critical thinking will help to ensure a workforce that is able to tackle the needs of our society and ensure a sound economy. STEM pervades every career area. The role of educators is no longer to prepare for kids for jobs or to predict the jobs of the future.  Teachers are instead equipping students to invent the future workplace. Or, as, Meghan M. Biro puts it in her article, “5 Powerful Career Drivers For The Future Workforce, “We’re not talking who-moved-my-cheese here: we’re talking being the maker of cheese.”

photo credit: Wellington College Love STEM via photopin (license)

#WorkTrends Preview: How Academia and Business Support STEM

The world of education and business are at a precipice in relation to what we need to keep our economy chugging along without slowing down the advancements needed to remain an economic leader.

This week Meghan M. Biro and guest Rachael Mann discuss the intricacies around how academia and business can and should work collaboratively in supporting our growing need for more technically trained people… and this is especially true when it comes to technically educated female students. The initiative called STEM was developed for this exact reason.

Join Meghan and Rachael on Wednesday, November 30 at 1pm EST to hear more about this important initiative and to learn more about how businesses can support the academic cause to keep this movement growing.

How Academia and Business Support STEM

#WorkTrends Logo Design

Join Rachael and me on our LIVE online podcast Wednesday, Nov 30 — 1 pm ET / 10 am PT.

Immediately following the podcast, the team invites the TalentCulture community over to the #WorkTrends Twitter stream to continue the discussion. We encourage everyone with a Twitter account to participate as we gather for a live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: How can we encourage female students to pursue technical careers? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Q2: What can parents and leaders do to support STEM? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Q3: How can business integrate STEM into their culture? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Don’t want to wait until next Wednesday to join the conversation? You don’t have to. I invite you to check out the #WorkTrends Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group, and our TalentCulture G+ community. Share your questions, ideas and opinions with our awesome community any time. See you there!

Join Our Social Community & Stay Up-to-Date!


photo credit: COD Newsroom College of DuPage Engineering Club Preps for NASA Robotics Mining Competition 2015 10 via photopin (license)

What HR Pros Can Do About the Lack of Women in STEM

Thanks to the pace of innovation, STEM skills—science, technology, engineering, and math—are in increasingly high demand. It’s not a news flash that there’s a lack of diversity (and women) in STEM jobs, and this presents an opportunity for HR pros. Make sure you understand the challenges for women in STEM careers and how your company is focusing on STEM opportunities; this can be key in ultimately attracting top talent.

Consider this —there are two STEM job vacancies for every qualified-but-unemployed person, and staffing agency Adecco forecasts that “U.S. colleges are only graduating enough computer science engineers to fill 30 percent of STEM jobs by 2020.”

Compounding this is the fact that as a society, we’re inadvertently pushing half the workforce away from these jobs. A majority of women don’t feel welcomed by the tech industry. Is it a pipeline and recruitment issue? Or does it stem from culture and retention? It’s likely a combination of both. Staying on top of these issues should be top-of-mind for any company in need of tech employees, the most forward-thinking of which are likely to attract and retain the top talent. Let’s look closer.

The Pipeline Problem

While women outpace men in earning college degrees, they represent just 24 percent of the overall STEM workforce. At the undergraduate level, women are less likely to earn a degree in fields like computer science than they were even 10 years ago; a report from the U.S. Department of Commerce found that overall employment for women in fields like computer science, math, and engineering actually went down between 2000 and 2009.

Heather Huhman, a Gen Y career expert, says the core issues stem from gender perceptions in social and cultural norms.

“The problem starts as early as grade school…there exists an unconscious bias that science and math are typically ‘male’ fields while humanities and arts are primarily ‘female’ fields, and these stereotypes further inhibit girls’ likelihood of cultivating an interest in math and science. ”

She says an inadvertent bias by teachers and parents can torpedo an aspiring girl’s interest, even opportunity. “Teachers fail to see girls’ raised hands, and limit their interactions with girls to social, non-academic topics. Boys may be expected to lead the pack in these areas and when a girl shows a proficiency in STEM subjects it can be seen as trivial and fleeting,” she explained.

Cultural Barriers

The hurdles don’t end for women who establish themselves in STEM fields, either. Joan C. Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Hastings College of the Law, co-authored a study earlier this year that found women are often in the position where they must consistently prove their competency and dedication—even to other women.

Writing for HBR, she reported that many women in STEM careers say they walk a tightrope between being seen as competent without straying too far from traditional expectations for women. One biologist reported that while she used to speak her mind directly, she now frames her requests as, “I can’t do this without your help,” in order to maintain better working relationships. Worried about being seen as too ambitious, an astrophysicist said she goes as far as hiding prizes and media coverage.

“It’s so tempting to attribute the paucity of women in STEM to pipeline problems or personal choices. But it’s time to listen to women scientists: they think the issue is gender bias, and an increasing amount of research supports that view,” Williams said.

What Does This Mean for Companies in Need of STEM Talent?

While all of the inherent biases and challenges that girls and women face in STEM fields won’t be eliminated overnight, there are strategies that organizations can take to support education in the community, create a more inclusive culture, and foster a positive brand image that will impact recruitment. Let’s explore some ideas:

Start early. Reach out to girls before they start thinking about a career. Talking with girls and exposing them to the opportunities that STEM careers present at a young age goes a long way. And it’s not just a nice thing to do: It creates a pipeline of future engineers, and signals to women who are already working in the field that your company prioritizes gender parity and values diversity. You’ll find that if you’re already invested in the community, recruiting becomes a lot easier.

  • Support grants and scholarships that lead to internships. Put your money where your mouth is – and then actively participate. Create specific programs that encourage girls and women to learn and grow in computer science and engineering; it can help you identify new talent and ensure the cultural fit of prospective employees.
  • Create mentorship opportunities. Part of creating your own pipeline means offering opportunities for young women to develop relationships within your company as their career progresses. It is critical for long-term retention to provide support and a framework for women to succeed.

Hopefully, the foregoing has gotten you to thinking about STEM recruiting and how your HR team can actively work to promote STEM initiatives, build relationships with young people (a/k/a ‘future talent’), and create opportunities to mentor both young people and internal teams in STEM. Mentorship creates relationships that lead to good corporate culture and happy, motivated employees that stay around. What does your company, and your HR team do as it relates to STEM recruiting? Do you have tips to add to the ones I’ve suggested? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

If you’d like more information on STEM, especially as it relates to girls and women, you might check out some of the resources listed below:

National Girls Collaborative Project

The National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) encourages young girls to begin a career in a STEM field. NGCP offers several publications about the lack of female presence in these career fields, and acts as a collaborative group that includes many organizations across the country.

Association for Career and Technical Education

The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) is the largest association of its kind, addressing pedagogical issues in technology education. The association provides resources for teachers and is highly involved in advocacy work; they’ve lobbied policymakers to improve technical education in schools.


The National Center for Women & Information Technology works to correct gender imbalance in technology and computing because it positively correlates with a larger workforce, better innovation, and increased business performance.

Association for Women in Science

The Association for Women in Science, or AWIS, is a professional organization for women who work in STEM. They offer many resources for women working in these fields such as continuing education, literature, and workshops in addition to coaching and mentoring services.

There are other organizations for women in STEM careers and many actively encourage women to join these fields. The balance won’t be righted overnight, but through stronger education and more inclusive workplace culture, the gap can be closed.

Image: BigStock

My Fight Song: Women In Technology

“This is my fight song…” I am pounding out my run in the rain listening to Rachel Platt’s new song. Hmmm…I start to eye roll and suspect this will probably be the next Disney Warrior Princess theme song…But for now…

It’s mine.

“Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion”

“Big waves”…I laugh remembering how big waves started so small for my career. Because in full disclosure, I was a geeky college co-ed chemistry major trying so hard not to get organic chem lab experiments gone wrong on my clothes (and coming home reeking from them so badly my roomie was ready to lock me out). It was the 4th-year college calculus & physics that knocked me down though. No college mentor to help me hang on. No strong college advisors to help me. I decided I couldn’t cut it. I switched to a business (amidst hearing my father rant about the change).

Now don’t get me wrong. I love business. It’s a massive chess game that thrills me and lights me up! I’ve been fortunate to be successful in it because I had also had a great life mentor in my mom who was a CEO and built healthcare businesses. She showed me what great leadership for women in business & consulting looks like since I was a kid. I love this journey. It’s truly my passion…but I do wistfully miss the technology and STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math) brain food. I have consulted and sold highly complex technology projects for 20 years and love it. But I wanted something more. And I didn’t even know what “more” could be.

In a 1:1 with my leader, KarlieJessop, asks “why don’t I call our SVP of Development at @ADP and see if you can start a stretch assignment in our Big Data project?” I was stunned. Did she know I was considering outside career offers out of boredom? I loved my job; but I wanted more and I truly didn’t know what “more” was. I didn’t have the coding background so there was no way I could apply for tech jobs internally. How does a passion for tech and a thirst for learning translate to real business value? I figured she was “checking the box” on something HR was forcing her talk to me about. Boy was I wrong! She set up for me to meet with Rich Wilson, SVP for Development at ADP, (think Wizard of Oz on BigData Steroids). That spark ignited and he opened doors for me to be part of his core innovation team in analytics. This was an invitation to work alongside other great leaders such as Marc Rind, Chief Data Scientist. “It’s a win-win,” Rich shared with me in a 1:1. Rich, Marc and the incredible Analytics teams across the world listen regularly to my consulting experiences and the client voices I hear and represent. They want to ensure usability and impact with their consumer fluidly (in addition to their client user groups). This IS the “more” what I was longing for. This passion they have ignited has now launched me to formal education via Johns Hopkins Data Science program. And Marc Rind (my mentor) has my back helping me deepen knowledge in machine-based learning, coding in R, as I learn and even publish one social profile I didn’t expect: my GitHub for codeshare.

Wicked cool?

Without a doubt.

On the heels of a provocative TalentCulture Radio Show and #TChat from Cork, Ireland, I am reminded that we have such an everyday opportunity and responsibility as leaders to drive more women & diversity in technology. Notably, we have to lead every day with this in mind:

1. Listen to your workforce

This is more than workshops and posters. More than emails from HR and twitter tweet bytes. This is everyday coaching and engagement strategy every leader must lead with like it’s oxygen. MOOCs and other learning opportunities can provide insight into helping employees start to explore new interests that the business could harness. But this is on every business leader across the board to own.

2. Offer ideas & Uncover Rocks

Listen and understand a career path for the individuals in your workforce not forgetting to balance with outside interests and inquiring about their own interests. It’s amazing how listening intently to employees interests and thoughts can open doors to ideas one may not have thought of. We have a female administrative assistant now excelling at learning SCRUM project management from another informal conversation. Uncover all rocks.

3. What If…Be Receptive

Rich & Marc were receptive to a nontechnical professional joining their team. Many would be incredulous at this and resistant. Why would leadership in technology spend time with a non-tech professional? Because diversity promotes innovation. It is a catalyst for disruptive ideas and thoughts. The top Innovators focus on diversity not just for great philanthropic sound bytes: but because this actually translates into financial ROI. As leaders, we must ensure we drive more to be competitive in business. And with the shortage of women and diversity in technology, this is just the start. “There’s a pressing need for talent in computing and engineering. Such positions represent 80 percent of available STEM jobs and are a hugely growing area.”

In our talent challenges in the workforce, this represents a new way businesses will win over competitors. “There will be a war for technical talent,” (General Motors CEO Mary Barra). Barra says it is crucially important to get more women into tech roles.

All because of one conversation. One leader who listened and opened a conversation and a senior leader was receptive and see the value of diversity in innovation. It’s up to leaders to change the conversations and recognize not only employee engagement opportunities, but finding new ways to drive women & diversity in technology.

And for this innovator, I’ve never been happier.

Let’s make big waves.

These Are The Moving Recruiting Money Shots

I played Patrick the recruiter in our customer conference general session skit. It was less than 15 lines and shouldn’t have been a problem.

But it was, mostly because I’m a ham at heart and like to improvise whenever possible. Forget the fact that there would be a floor monitor and a laptop showing the players the script.

So there I was on stage with some of my esteemed colleagues in front of hundreds of customers – heads of HR and talent acquisition – plus partners and peers – delivering my lines like a seasoned actor.

And then Megan, our VP of strategic accounts, queued me up for my big finale:

“What if you could pin your most frequent searches on your dashboard, and have the results refresh automatically as new candidates show interest, eliminating barriers between you and the next great member of your team?”

“That would be fantastic!” I exclaimed.

Wait for it…then nothing. Odd, I thought, what’s she waiting for? 

Seconds go by. “Um…Patrick…um…would you like me to set up a job search for you?”

Wow. I missed the money shot line. How did I do that?

“Um…yes! Can you set up one for our Store Manager position we’re always looking to fill?”

“Absolutely. We’ve set the Store Manager search to include the important parameters you define and that are unique to the job, including keywords, tags and location…”

Megan wrapped up the Patrick segment, and that’s when I added:

“Megan, sorry, but I’m managing over 60 reqs right now and it’s hard for me to remember which one is which.”

Smiles. Laughter. Some claps. I had my money shot after all.

Okay, maybe not 60 reqs, but I know many talent acquisition teams are carrying heavy job loads because finding and hiring the best people. Tech talent is especially tough today, to find those with the necessary skill sets that are critical for today’s companies – primarily, software programmers and developers, as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) positions.

According to Computerworld’s 2015 Forecast survey, job growth in IT remains very healthy – nearly one-quarter of respondents said that they plan to add more IT employees this year.  At the same time, unemployment for IT professionals is extremely low – just 2.5% according to figures from one of the latest Dice Tech Trends report – making it even harder to find top people with technology skills in high demand.

Conversely, the non-technical positions companies need to fill continuously takes a candidate pooling and constant “warming” approach, as well as engaging candidates with relevant content in various mediums, especially video.

Competing for the best people, regardless of role or classification, has again become priority number one with an emphasis on the speed and quality of the hiring process. But it’s really much more complicated out there: the hiring economy today is like an original screenplay we keep rewriting and reordering, with a lot of sweat and tears, through every economic boom and bust story.

Yes, it’s complicated. According to the U.S. Department of Labor:

  • Job Openings have increased 28% in 2014, more than any other year since 1999.
  • For the last 12 months we’ve added on the average 200K per month.
  • At the same time, wages aren’t keeping pace, which is causing increased turnover.

And yet, a study last year from Carl Frey and Michael Osborne at Oxford University found that 47% of jobs are at risk of computerization over the next two decades.

And for the past few years, companies on the average receive an excessive number of resumes per every open full-time permanent position. This according to the Candidate Experience Award (CandE) data (you can now download the 2014 report here and then participate in the 2015 CandEs here) from the past two years alone that shows open requisitions for all levels of positions are tracking over 200 resumes each. At the same time, more than half of job applicants are applying for up to four jobs per week, while nearly a third applying to up to nine jobs per week.

Although the competition for top talent is fierce, employers must still find creative ways to entice people with in-demand STEM skills to join their company – getting to know whom they’re targeting is critical prior to and especially during outreach. Thankfully, research and relationship building are alive and well in recruiting today for whatever the roles being hired. We’ve covered this topic detail on the TalentCulture #TChat Show more than once recently.

But what are some specific examples of delivering better talent acquisition regardless of the complicated backstories and plot twists? We keep pitching the “better experiences” for candidates, recruiters and hiring managers, but what productions have made it to the big screen?

The CandEs have them in the spotlight and since founding them in 2010, the Talent Board has created a global benchmark process for companies to gain needed insight into their recruiting processes and more specifically, how their candidates feel about the process and how they were treated.

The CandE benchmark is the foundation for how companies are recognized for the awards, by their candidates. This award process is truly the first and largest “People’s Choice” award in the recruiting industry, and remains the largest single source of candidate experience and recruiting performance benchmark data in the world. (For those keeping score at home, about one-third of the 2014 winners are PeopleFluent customers.)

Here are give great examples of from the CandE winners with distinction, those companies who by far have exceeded the first-tier winning benchmark:

  1. MetLife has built a validated simulation that not only helps assess a candidate’s qualifications, but that candidates also find informative and educational about job requirements. They also distribute surveys to get detailed input from new hires at from day one, after three months and again at one year.
  2. Capital One launched their CandE effort two years ago to build “consistency” of treatment from call center employees to executives. Every person who applies is asked a series of CandE-related questions and their response rates are north of 50 percent (10,000 asks per month) and their Net Promoter Scores are then segmented by location, level, function and recruiter.
  3. NBCUniversal holds Tech Talk Tuesdays and Ask the Experts every Wednesday, every single week. By measuring and acting on their source of hire and other hiring data, their speed to hire has improved from 75 days to 29 days.
  4. Hyatt has begun aligning their well known and well developed “guest experience” to the CandEs. One thing they’ve done as a result is to introduce applicants to employees during the interview process, and much earlier in the process than most companies usually do.
  5. RMS, a three-time CandE winner with distinction conducts weekly and sometimes daily online chats that focus on providing “honest answers” to “honest questions.” They measure hiring like dating and equate the recruiting process to first-date impressions and beyond.

These are the moving recruiting money shots if there ever were. Thankfully there are more killer premiers and sequels like this every year.

Step right on up for your screen test. My people will call your people and we’ll do lunch.

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

photo credit: DSCN3961 via photopin (license)

Preparing For Campus Recruiting’s Future

As technology moves rapidly forward, the employment landscape will continue to change. This means campus recruiting in 2020 and beyond will look much different than it does today. Students will have different majors, use different technologies, and plan for completely new and undiscovered career paths.

Great recruiters are always forward thinkers. They have to see a talented candidate and imagine how he/she will fit into a company or a specific role. Yet, how do you prepare for an unclear future? As usual, recruiters will need to look into their crystal balls to determine what campus recruiting will look like in 2020 and far beyond.

Industries in Decline

According to futurist Thomas Frey, by 2030, more than 2 billion jobs will just disappear out of the market. This shocking statistic makes a certain amount of sense, as new technology is disrupting and, in many cases, replacing more traditional industries.

Even Bill Gates is predicting a huge segment of the job market will just cease to exist within the next 10 to 15 years. Speaking to The American Enterprise Institute, Gates predicted software automation will wipe out scores of jobs. Some of these are in the telemarketing, sales, accounting, and retail fields. Others are more highly trained positions, including jobs in legal work, technical writing, and maybe even commercial pilots.

The first step when looking into the future of college recruiting is to understand the way technology is disrupting established industries. What will sales and customer service positions look like in 2030? Will they exist? How about creative, advertising and marketing? How do the new tools flooding the marketplace change the skills needed by smart graduates to succeed? The answers to these questions should help you tailor your search for futuristic talent.

Flourishing Fields

Science, technology, engineering and math (or STEM) jobs are in high demand. It’s not hard to imagine why, considering how technology has crept into every aspect of our daily lives. Almost all companies and all positions use some form of technology on the job today, and tech will only continue its rapid growth.

Consider that, for non-STEM jobs, unemployed candidates outnumber jobs by 3.6 to 1. For STEM candidates, however, jobs are plentiful and outnumber candidates by 1.9 to 1. As these fields continue to gain in importance, combining with environmental fields and new trends like big data, these candidates will be the college grads to watch.

5 Jobs You’ll Be Recruiting for in 2020 … That Don’t Exist Now

You won’t be able to find these job ads online today, but in the future some of these might be the jobs college grads dream about:

Big Data: Big data is already starting a revolution in the way we do business and analyze data. These jobs will gain in prominence in the coming years, meaning big data will be a big recruiting trend in the future.

3D Printing: Printing in three dimensions isn’t just a fad; it’s about to become an essential part of how we build and innovate. In the future, those familiar with 3D printing technology and how to utilize it will have a leg up.

Driverless Cars: Who wants to put the pedal to the metal when you can sit back in style? Driverless cars are just around the corner and the technicians to service these full-service vehicles will be in high demand.

Micro-Colleges: Colleges are starting to seem a little behind the times. This is thanks in large part to two phenomena. First, the economic collapse left many college students with expensive degrees but without jobs. The second is how rapidly technology changes, making the degree you got yesterday obsolete by next week. This will lead to a rise in more affordable micro-colleges focusing on skills and immersion over the more traditional liberal arts model.

Productivity Hackers: Already our time is at a premium. Everyone is overscheduled, from high-powered CEOs running from meeting to meeting to toddlers being shuttled from ballet practice to play groups. The science of productivity will become more than a buzzword by 2020; it will be an actual career field.

Predicting the future might be impossible, but this doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel when it comes to imagining what the top talent will look like in 2020. By keeping an eye on the trends and staying informed, smart recruiters can be more prepared when campus recruiting in the future and beyond.

What do you think? What jobs do you see gaining steam in 2020? Share in the comments!

Bio: Amit Chauhan is the CEO and co-founder of Recroup, an entry-level hiring platform that allows employers to find the right talent by getting to know the person behind the resume. Connect with Amit and the Recroup team on Twitter.

photo credit: Unhindered by Talent via photopin cc

Who Says Girls Can’t Be Engineers?

Employers have been banging on about engineering — the shortage of engineers and lack of young people, particularly girls, studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) related subjects for a while now. So what is the current picture and do we need to be doing more to get young people excited about STEM subjects?

What the research tells us…

The number of school leavers choosing engineering courses and apprenticeships has not increased enough since last year, according to Engineering UK. This is worrying given engineering in this country needs 87,000 new graduates every year.

60% of all new jobs created need science, technology, engineering and math skills, and research shows that by 2020 the UK will need 1.86 million extra people with engineering skills. To do this we need to double the number of young people taking engineering-related apprenticeships and degrees.

There is a clear problem attracting girls and women into STEM-related jobs and careers; the bare facts are pretty eloquent as only 17% of the UK technology workforce is female.

There’s a huge opportunity to do more to engage with groups to secure our future talent pipeline of engineers.

What needs to be done?

We’ve got to dramatically change girls’ perception of what engineering actually is in order to meet this target.

Research from National Grid shows there’s a huge misconception among parents, that engineering is physical work and it’s poorly paid, neither of which are true.

Another survey of 2,000 young professionals by the City of Guilds states that 23% of women were advised about apprenticeships, compared to 32% of men, which suggests programs in engineering and IT are not as open to women.

The key to success is to make sure young people are made aware of the opportunities so they see these as a real possibility, particularly women in traditionally male-dominated trade environments. It’s about providing role models.

Leaders within engineering need to collaborate to engage and inspire young women/girls (Remove girls?) now so that we succeed in producing enough young talent here in the UK.

Steve Holliday, CEO at National Grid, says, “Engineering is about creating the future, it’s about solving problems that are global problems. There’s nothing more exciting than thinking ‘I’m actually part of something that’s creating a better world.

If you speak to any of the female engineers we have working at National Grid they will tell you what a fantastically interesting, varied and well paid job engineering can be. These are the jobs that will shape the future.”

Change takes time and the skills gap will not close overnight. There has been a real drive to encourage young people to go on to study STEM-related subjects and the message seems to be getting through to many schools.

But the real impact remains to be seen. We need to measure the outcome, monitoring how many young people – men and women – go on to study STEM-related subjects but also how many go into an engineering-related role.

photo credit: Idaho National Laboratory via photopin

5 Skills Gaps Employers Need To Address

It’s no surprise that one of the biggest challenges hiring managers face is finding well-rounded candidates with strong skill sets.

Over recent years, multiple studies have addressed the growing skills gap and how to fix it. However, this has caused many employers and job seekers to think that the “skills gap” is a single catch-all for any employee or job seeker who lacks a needed skill.

What’s important to understand, though, is every field faces its own unique skills gap.

Instead of looking at the skills gap as a single, large issue, let’s break it down into five prominent skills gaps employers need to address:

1. Digital media skills

Research shows that 77 percent of companies believe their lack of digital skills is the reason their business hasn’t been able to adapt to new digital trends. When more than 90 percent of companies don’t have skills in social media, mobile media, and internal social networks, it can be difficult to keep your business moving forward.

Employers can address this skills gap by investing time and money into the development of digital skills. Employers can offer training programs for employees in order to teach them about the company’s digital strategy and give them the tools they need to be successful in the digital world.

2. Soft skills

Although hard skills are important for employees to have, soft skills are more likely to help employees increase their performance in the workplace.

Despite the importance of soft skills, 44 percent of senior executives believe this is a weakness for employees. Many employees lack strong skills in communication, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration.

To address this skills gap, employers should provide continuous learning opportunities for their employees. Workshops, seminars, and team-building activities can boost the aforementioned soft skills.

3. Marketing skills

The marketing field is constantly evolving, and marketing professionals need to keep up with the latest trends and strategies.

Marketing professionals need to understand various content marketing skills including analytics, SEO, marketing automation, and e-commerce. Employers can provide training in these areas, which will help them develop stronger marketing professionals and tighten the skills gap.

4. Skilled trades and retiring Baby Boomers

In 2012, more than half of skilled-trade workers were 45 years of age or older. According to Adecco, one-third of senior executives believe the manufacturing industry will be most affected by the skills gap.

To address this change in the workforce, employers must actively recruit younger employees and provide training. This will help employers maintain a streamline of skilled talent, even after Baby Boomers retire.

5. STEM skills

STEM careers are expected to grow 17 percent by 2018. Unfortunately, employers believe 12 percent of workers lack software skills and 22 percent lack technical skills.

One way employers can improve this skills gap is to provide on-the-job training and certification for different softwares and technologies. This will allow employees to continuously learn new technologies and keep up with the latest trends in their industry.

The skills gap is a growing issue for employers and it can only be resolved if employers take action. By taking note of these skills gaps, employers will improve their training programs and develop more skilled employees.

What do you believe are some prominent skills gaps employers must address?

Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire, a video interview solution used by more than 2,000 companies across the globe. Learn more about using video interviewing to jump the skills gap and connect with Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter.

photo credit: only alice via photopin cc

4 Ways Other Countries Are Closing The Skills Gap

Although unemployment in the U.S. has been steadily decreasing, taking a closer look at the numbers uncovers a scary gap: of the 9.5 million unemployed, there are still 4.6 million jobs open.

This is largely driven by a growing skills gap we are facing in trade professions. According to a study by CareerBuilder, 54 percent of employers are sitting with open positions that they can’t find qualified candidates for.

This challenge isn’t just plaguing the U.S., though. According to a study by McKinsey, one-third of employers across Europe have said that lack of skills is causing major business problems.

As a result, countries around the world are taking a close look at how they can close this gap. Here are some of the things they are doing:

Apprenticeship Programs

An article in The New York Times cites that 868,700 people in Britain completed apprenticeships last year, which was up 77 percent from three years ago. About half of the programs were designed for 16 to 18-year-olds.

The challenge in finding individuals to take part in these programs was a result of the negative reputation that apprenticeships have. During the peak of apprenticeship in the mid-19th century, programs expanded from artisan trade to industries like engineering and manufacturing. However, the introduction of accessible full-time education began to paint the picture of apprentices as people who didn’t have the intelligence or resources to go to a real university.

Germany, however, still places a lot of emphasis on apprenticeship programs. The country requires every trade worker to undergo a three-year apprenticeship. According to an article in NPR, they work for three or four days a week at a company and then go to school for the other one or two days. The Chamber of Commerce awards the certificates and set standards for what is taught in these vocational schools.

With the government involved, companies are guaranteed a fully skilled and qualified trade worker. This in turn increases the validity and value of these workers.

Equal Importance: College Education and Skilled Workers

Today’s society — in the U.S. and abroad — views a full-time college education as a much more acceptable and even required step to take before entering the workforce. This has greatly hurt the skilled trades area, which is generally not part of a four-year college degree.

However, with very successful entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg making bold statements that college isn’t necessary to be successful, young students are starting to change their mindset on the importance of a college degree. This is great news for the skilled trade professions.

Germany has done a great job assimilating trade skills within their culture and placing validity on this type of education with strong apprenticeship programs. Additionally, companies in countries like Vietnam are training individuals who feel these trade skills will provide a good future.

Similar to the importance that has been put on STEM degrees in the U.S., companies need to play a role in bringing more validity and importance to skilled trades. Talk to students about the need for individuals with these skills and the type of career path they could have with it. For students, not having to leave college tens of thousands of dollars in debt can sound very appealing if they know they can still have a good future ahead of them.

Open Discussions to Close the Gap

According to the McKinsey report, employers, education providers and young people do not understand each other and operate in “parallel universes.”

To put things into perspective, in Europe, 74 percent of education providers were confident that their graduates were prepared for work, but only 38 percent of youth and 35 percent of employers agreed. Germany and the United Kingdom reported that most employers communicated with education providers at least several times a year, but only employers in Spain reported their interaction with education providers were effective.

Within the U.S., employers must start having much more open dialogue with those responsible for educating youth and the youth themselves. Everyone should understand the needs of today’s workforce so society can work toward the same goals. Getting students involved in programs in high school or college to get them excited about certain areas of work is a great way to do this and to help them understand what skills are truly needed in the professional world.

Company-Run Universities

Company universities not only allow companies to align their employees with their strategic vision and initiatives, but they can also ensure all employees have all the appropriate training needed. Putting more emphasis on this type of education that more closely involves the business sector can help to shorten the skills gap and train young professionals on these trade skills.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Vietnam-based IT company FPT introduced the FPT University, which has expanded its facilities to become the country’s biggest IT university. The university has been steadily growing as more students come in with a career aspiration to be an IT technician because it is seen as a stable career path. The country’s IT infrastructure continues to grow, and U.S. tech companies like IBM and Apple have started to partner with companies like FPT to recruit their skilled workers.

The skills gap is not only affecting our country, but the entire world. With our ability to connect to anyone anywhere, we need to begin learning from each other’s successes and failures and finding a solution to this problem. If we don’t, we could face a very unstable and uncertain future.

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(About the Author: Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire, a video interview solution used by more than 2,000 companies across the globe. Learn more about using video interviewing to jump the skills gap and connect with Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter.)

photo credit: Βethan via photopin cc

Gender Pay Gap: The Numbers Still Don't Add Up

The world of work has become fairly sophisticated, with laws and business norms that support equitable career opportunities for all. However, there’s still plenty of room for progress — especially in terms of pay.

Studies show that compensation for women still lags behind men in the same role. Furthermore, men still outnumber women in professions that are typically lucrative, such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

The infographic below, compiled by (an online resource for desirable medical and pharmaceutical sales jobs), reveals various aspects of the gender pay gap — with a selection of insights by location, industry, occupation and title. Here are several noteworthy takeaways:

•  The United States ranks 22nd in the world, overall, in gender pay disparity;
•  On average, female doctors earn $56,000 a year less than males;
•  The female-to-male earnings ratio in the construction industry is 92%, while in the financial industry lags behind at only 72%.

Check out the full infographic below and share your thoughts with us in the comments area.

What do you think? What are some reasons why there’s still a gender pay gap? And what can we do to improve these statistics?

(Image Credit: Ken Teegardin at

Gender Pay Gap: The Numbers Still Don’t Add Up

The world of work has become fairly sophisticated, with laws and business norms that support equitable career opportunities for all. However, there’s still plenty of room for progress — especially in terms of pay.

Studies show that compensation for women still lags behind men in the same role. Furthermore, men still outnumber women in professions that are typically lucrative, such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

The infographic below, compiled by (an online resource for desirable medical and pharmaceutical sales jobs), reveals various aspects of the gender pay gap — with a selection of insights by location, industry, occupation and title. Here are several noteworthy takeaways:

•  The United States ranks 22nd in the world, overall, in gender pay disparity;
•  On average, female doctors earn $56,000 a year less than males;
•  The female-to-male earnings ratio in the construction industry is 92%, while in the financial industry lags behind at only 72%.

Check out the full infographic below and share your thoughts with us in the comments area.

What do you think? What are some reasons why there’s still a gender pay gap? And what can we do to improve these statistics?

(Image Credit: Ken Teegardin at