Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education is becoming vital to workplaces powered by automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced mobile and technology platforms. But should all new hires come pre-equipped with such STEM education or work experiences?
According to research, 80% of the fastest-growing careers in the U.S. require employees to have some form of STEM education. The U.S. Department of Commerce has also reported that over the past 10 years or so, jobs with STEM education requirements have grown three times as fast as non-STEM jobs, and employees in STEM careers earn 26% more than those who are in other careers, meaning these jobs are highly desirable.
However, because technology innovation evolves so rapidly, not many students, workers, or job applicants have the education or work background that many jobs now require, and necessary STEM skills are always changing to fit new technology innovations, which results in an expanding STEM skills gap that affects the economy.
However, experts claim that this STEM skills gap can be closed with partnerships between public and private sectors and via different educational opportunities—which is where L&D departments can and should have a significant impact.
In today’s workplace, it makes more sense for employers to upskill their employees with STEM skills rather than requiring new hires to have prior experience or STEM education, as upskilling is more cost-effective and STEM-related skills barely last 5 years. In addition, 46% of U.S. employers have difficulty filling open roles because no one currently has the skills needed to fill those roles anyway.
Employers and L&D departments should also place their attention on soft-skills training programs, as employees and prospective employees need to learn more about problem solving and effectively communicating and collaborating with others; research indicates that although soft skills aren’t as easy to teach as STEM-related skills (or “hard skills”), they are more important for employee and organizational productivity and growth.
Overall, research shows that organizations should be more worried about recruiting and retaining talented individuals who can attain or who have soft skills, as opposed to candidates with only STEM-related skills. But some experts don’t believe there is enough evidence to support the existence of a STEM skills gap in the current workforce and contend that most candidates actually possess more soft skills.
So, should all hires have a STEM education or work background listed on their résumés? Research and expert opinions say not necessarily.