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How can employers get more STEM professionals?

STEM industry

Organisations in a wide variety of sectors need professionals with expertise in science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) subjects. In fact, if you are a thriving business at the moment it's unlikely that you don't need the skills of someone in one of these key subjects, regardless of what service or product your company provides.

However, statistics suggest that there is a global shortage of candidates with these skillsets, which is hampering companies all around the world. Being unable to recruit the right talent can be damning for businesses regardless of the industry they work in.

Writing online for Forbes, Rodney C. Adkins, senior vice president of IBM’s Systems & Technology Group, said creating technological innovations is a key part of advancing both the economy and society.

He said this was behind the "urgency" for the US to develop talent in STEM subjects. Citing statistics from the Department of Labor in 2012, Mr Adkins explained that just five per cent of professionals in the US are employed in fields relating to science and engineering, despite these experts being responsible for more than 50 per cent of the country's "sustained economic expansion".

Statistics published by engineering and technology giant Adecco revealed that between 2000 and 2010, the number of STEM jobs grew three times quicker than any other field. However, it appears that this need for STEM workers will only grow over the next few years.

According to an infographic created by the firm, the number of STEM occupations will rise by 16.8 per cent between 2010 and 2020.

Mr Adkins suggested that the best way to resolve the shortage of STEM skills is to improve both the size and composition of students doing these subjects.

"First, we need to increase the size of the STEM education pipeline by maintaining an enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering and math throughout high school and college.

"Our youngest students show an interest in STEM subjects, but the president’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has concluded that roughly 40 per cent of college students planning to major in engineering and science end up switching to other subjects," Mr Adkins explained.

But for many companies, the problem is now. They need to be able to access the best STEM talent possible and keep them. So how can employers improve their recruitment of professionals in these fields, especially when the competition for them is so incredibly fierce?

Get to know your candidate pool

Although each candidate is an individual, people who study STEM subjects often have similar ways of thinking, meaning most of them will be looking out for the same key things about their potential job. It's likely that people who are interested in engineering, mathematics, technology and science are also geared towards innovation and problem solving. These are great areas to focus on in your job advert and talk about during the interview process.

It's also important for STEM candidates to know that your company takes their department seriously, and that it will get the adequate attention or funding it needs. Businesses with limited budgets should focus on the ability of growing something up from the ground, as this is another key benefit for professionals.

Advertise your company culture

More and more people are becoming concerned about the type of company they would be working for. Everything from your ethical and environmental standards to your policies on flexible working and annual leave will matter so it's essential that this is made clear in both your job advert and during the interview.

Professionals also care about the people they will be working with, and the opportunities they'll have to meet with them. A lot of time is spent at work and investing in initiatives that help your workforce bond will not only make them happier - and so more loyal to your company - but also makes them more productive and collaborative.

Offer competitive pay or benefits

It's important that you look at the salary you are offering candidates and check this against what your competitors are advertising. It may be that the reason that you're not getting enough STEM talent is that you simply aren't making your company a competitive option. If the salaries you are offering are comparable to others, it's also good to look at the benefits of working for your business.

From gym memberships to healthcare schemes, free eye tests and loyalty initiatives, companies are offering candidates more and more perks to entice them. It's also a great way of making your job offer a better prospect without having to advertise massive salaries.​