STEM: Building Block to Bridge the Skills Gap

Is there a disconnect between the skills employers seek and those that most workers possess?

A recent study shows that 40 percent of global firms are experiencing talent shortages—the highest such rate in a decade. The data appears to give credence to the idea of a “skills gap” that falls under the realm of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). But the answer to narrowing this gap is a more complex than merely doubling down on STEM education and training.

Going Beyond STEM

Given the anemic wage growth that has plagued the United States and other developed nations, the need to invest in STEM education is a familiar refrain. But workers have been slow to develop the skills most in demand in today’s marketplace. A pioneering study by a Brookings Institute found that the STEM labor market continues to deal with an acute skills gap. The problem isn’t so much that there aren’t enough STEM workers, but that these workers lack specific skills that are currently in high demand on the job market.

In other words, there is no shortage of workers with a basic grounding in math and science, but a lack of workers who possess the kind of cutting-edge technological skills that develop as the result of breakneck innovation. For example, the most sought-after skills are computer programmers who specialize in languages such as Python, Ruby and Hadoop.

An Important Building Block

This new information doesn’t mean STEM education is not important. Rather, it is the essential building block that allows for the development of other refined skills. Therefore, it is imperative for workers to ensure they continue to develop these skills after completing their education and starting a career.

But this responsibility shouldn’t rest solely on workers. Employers should be aware of the real problem at hand and find innovative ways to continue to help employees grow. Providing resources and additional training on the job can help narrow the gap for skills truly desired. This way, organizations will help employees meet the requirements for desired positions with maximum results.

Closing the Gap

There is no magic wand to solve persistent talent shortages. Instead, businesses must take a multi-pronged approach. Public-private educational partnerships, continuing professional development and internal training are all part of the solution. Savvy companies also understand the value of smart recruiting, as workers who have the requisite skills are that much more valuable.

Smart recruiters and business leaders are tasked with identifying and recruiting workers with the right skill sets. They must work to retain these employees with competitive compensation and professional development opportunities to fulfill their needs. This way, businesses will thrive in an environment where talent with rare skills is hard to find.