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UK – Strategies to avoid talent shortages in the STEM sector

28 November 2013

According to a report on trends in the workplace, the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has revealed that there are now 90,000 people studying Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) subjects at university, 10,000 fewer than the suggested number from the Royal Academy of Engineering needed to keep the industry fully stocked.

According to Michael Bennett, Director at business and technology recruiter ReThink Recruitment, the strategies we need to adopt to avoid a talent shortage are:

  • Don’t use a ‘one size fits all’ approach: People are different and companies are different, there’s no point in trying to find a universal solution to the STEM talent shortage, a number of different strategies will have to be implemented. The IT sector, for example, could benefit from the use of digital skills apprenticeships. This won’t work across the board and for many sectors apprenticeships aren’t the answer so it’s important to devise multiple strategies that can be effective in different areas.
  • Long term talent attraction: It’s not enough just to plan for the present; organisations must think ahead and develop long-term, talent pipelines. Top STEM talent will not be actively looking very often so the need to develop social recruitment strategies is crucial. It’s important, then, to identify and engage with these people over a period of time
  • Spread your net wide: UK businesses need to look outside of the UK if they’re to build into the future. Immigration has taken a battering in the news recently but it’s important not to be wrapped up in the hyperbole. Skilled workers that are necessary for the development of this country’s economy should be utilised by organisations. We live in a world with a globally mobile workforce, so why not use it?
  • Get to people earlier: There’s no point in trying to get people interested in STEM subjects at university if they had no interest at school. By this time they’ve already made their decisions and started on their future career path. Young people should be inspired earlier and shown the benefits of studying STEM subjects from a young age. Working in these areas offers the chance to be at the frontline of new and exciting technologies and this is what should be explained to children, not the outdated IT that is currently taught in schools. Promoting role models in these subjects would help. Identify successful women in these sectors, promote some of the digital entrepreneurs who have succeeded (isn’t geek the new cool?), or get more of Professor Brian Cox on the TV.
  • Develop a strong employer brand: It’s obviously important to find the best employees, but organisations also have to think about keeping hold of them. By training talent well and developing opportunities for progression, businesses will have a much better chance of hiring and retaining the best professionals and avoiding another talent shortage.

Commenting on the analysis, Michael Bennett said: “I think more than anything, this shows we’ve got a lot of work to do. The STEM sectors are growing quickly but we’re still lacking the talent coming through to meet this demand from the UK work force. The Government and UK businesses need to think about developing a long-term strategy that allows them to pipeline future talent.  For many organisations the short term needs are pressing so using some of the other strategies outlined will help fulfil those.”

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