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STEM Recruiting: The Biggest Area You’re Not Paying Attention To

Posted on the 23 February 2016 by Shellykramer @ShellyKramer

STEM Recruiting: The Biggest Area You’re Not Paying Attention ToWhen it comes to the future of higher education, there’s no shortage of conversation and/or focus on the importance of STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math). While STEM learning is a hot topic in academic institutions, what many companies aren’t aware of is that the pipeline of talent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields is drastically under-filled.

It is estimated that by 2020 there will be more jobs in tech than there are bodies to fill them. Somewhere between 1 million and 2.5 million jobs will go unfilled, most of them in the engineering and computer science fields. That’s a serious shortage.

This means companies will face more competition than ever before when it comes to recruiting STEM-focused candidates. From a recruiting standpoint, this is a wakeup call for both HR pros and senior leaders. Getting these potential job-seekers on the radar screen early and making a concerted effort to build relationships that will endure through the education process will hopefully lead them back in your direction when they’re ready to dive into a career.

What does that relationship-building look like? Smart companies of all sizes are getting involved and/or spearheading STEM-focused initiative in their communities. They are connecting with young people in middle school and high school and encouraging an interest in STEM learning, and showing them by way of real life examples what a career in STEM might look like. They are sponsoring science and tech competitions, sponsoring Maker Fairs and robotics teams, and they are sending engineers and data analysts and scientists into classrooms and auditoriums to talk about what it is they do–all with a view toward exposing young people to STEM careers and inspiring them to want to know more.

Fostering exploration, developing relationships, and even mentoring young people can have a tremendous impact on a company’s recruiting process. Here are a few things to keep in mind that will help you redesign your recruiting to build a great STEM pipeline.

Build Relationships with Candidates Before They Are Job Hunting

When people think of partnerships with universities, they often think of attending career fairs and sending job postings—but for the most forward-thinking companies, that is just the beginning.

A well-structured internship or mentorship program goes a long way. These programs allow your employees get to share their expertise, and you get to build your brand and your story with potential recruits. In many cases, these programs result in a reduction of recruiting time, as you’ve got a pool of candidates that you already know and whose work you’ve already seen in action.

And those candidates often still have an open mind about where their career paths are heading. Naomi Catherine Gheorghe, a student at NYU, switched her major from speech pathology to computer science after an internship last summer exposed her to software.

“I was so used to one type of science, like biology or chemistry, but through the internship, I saw the software person was able to combine science that I was used to with computer science. This introduction to computer science showed me there was (sic) absolutely more aspects to science.”

That early introduction can make a big difference. Many talented STEM students like Gheorghe won’t reach the job market, or your HR department, because they’re already in the pipeline of the forward thinking organization that helped them explore their interest in a particular field by way of an internship program.

Focus on Diversity: In Hiring and in Brand Messaging

Like it or not, STEM fields have a reputation; engineering in particular has not historically been very diverse, with females and minorities largely underrepresented.

Though it’s changing, slowly, unfortunately our culture has tended to reinforce those negative stereotypes from a young age, especially as it relates to girls in the 7 to 12 age range and discouraging them when it comes to math and science. You can dispel those preconceived notions by making sure your recruitment efforts are diverse, and then putting women and minorities in front of young audiences on a regular basis will help dispel those stereotypes and preconceived notions, and show young women the myriad of opportunities afforded in STEM fields.

If you’re looking to attract the very best talent in engineering, computer science, and other STEM fields, embrace diversity initiatives internally, make sure your brand messaging articulates your stance on diversity, and make sure that women and minorities know they are welcome and that opportunities abound.

Be Innovative: Create Your Own Talent Pipeline

Etsy tackled the gender diversity challenge during the past few years by making a concerted effort to hire and support female engineers. They didn’t just talk the talk, they dove in in an innovative fashion by creating their own pipeline called “Etsy Hacker Grants.” The program was a three-month hacker school for men and women that had gender distribution as a key metric. The grant program included scholarships that were needs-based, so if a candidate passed the application process, they were guaranteed a spot regardless of their financial situation. The results were amazing–in one year, Etsy increased the number of female engineers on their team by 500 percent.

This thinking and these kinds of creative approaches on the part of both recruiting pros and senior leaders can be applied to nearly any niche group in STEM education. The key tenets of building relationships often and early, educating and mentoring, focusing on diversity both internally and in your brand messaging and storytelling, and creating your own talent pipelines in innovative ways can set you on the path to not only attracting the best and brightest talent, but also developing a reputation for STEM commitment and leadership in your community and beyond.

A version of this post was first published on MillennialCEO.

photo credit: FLLFinalCE_2014_15_Munich_005 via photopin (license)

Meghan BiroMeghan M. Biro is a globally recognized Talent Management and HR Tech brand strategist, analyst, digital catalyst, author and speaker. As founder and CEO of TalentCulture and Founder of #WorkTrends, she has worked with hundreds of companies, from early-stage ventures to global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google, helping them recruit and empower stellar talent. Meghan has been a guest on numerous radio shows and online forums, and has been a featured speaker at global conferences. She is a regular contributor at Forbes, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur and several other media outlets. Meghan regularly serves on advisory boards for leading HR and technology brands. Meghan has been voted one of the Top 100 Social Media Power Influencers in 2015 by StatSocial and Forbes, Top 50 Most Valuable Social Media Influencers by General Sentiment, Top 100 on Twitter Business, Leadership, and Tech by Huffington Post, and Top 25 HR Trendsetters by HR Examiner.

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