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Five global megatrends fuelling STEM recruitment

Demand for STEM talent is on the rise, but what is driving the increase?

Asian male wearing glasses looking up to the right with a purple  galaxy projected onto his face

In our rapidly changing world STEM talent has never been in more demand. But what is fuelling this demand? Digitalisation, decarbonisation, healthcare, demographic shifts and new working models have led to huge opportunities for those who are studying, training, or have skills in the life sciences, technology and engineering.

These five global megatrends are gaining traction and drawing in sought-after specialists at the same moment that demographic changes are seeing the baby-boomer generation begin to retire, taking their skills and experience with them.

But why are they so important, and what impact are they having on our world?


Digitalisation has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic and is enabling businesses to become more sustainable and resilient. They are adopting leaner ways of working, with software-driven production allowing more capacity for innovation and cost efficiencies.

Direct investment in digital transformation is expected to be $6.3 trillion by 2024 and this rate of investment is accelerating. Changing customer demands, increased technological complexity and innovative digital technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, are driving an explosion in demand for specialist technology skills. It is forecast that 149 million new digital jobs will be needed by 2025.


Achieving net zero by 2050 requires a complete transformation of the global energy system and will only be achieved through the development and widespread adoption and deployment of innovative technologies and engineering skills. Most of the reductions in carbon emissions to 2030 will come from technologies that already exist. But in 2050, almost half of the carbon reductions will only be possible if technologies that are currently at the demonstration or prototype phase materialise.

Major clean energy innovation efforts must take place in the next decade to bring these new technologies to market in time. According to the International Energy Agency, by 2030 there will be 14 million new jobs created in global energy supply, and a further 16 million in clean energy end-uses, such as more efficient appliances, electric and fuel cell vehicles, building retrofits and energy-efficient construction.


The pandemic has led to profound changes and developments that have significantly accelerated the pace at which the life sciences sector is evolving.

Ensuring that solutions and knowledge are developed in good time to address future healthcare priorities is the foundation of this megatrend. We have witnessed unprecedented global efforts towards combatting the spread of a disease as well as in developing artificial intelligence and data. As a result, the world has seen the power of the industry and what strides can be made if the commitment and investment is there.

There is an ongoing demand for highly skilled specialists within life sciences, such as those who are capable of filling roles within quality assurance, clinical operations, regulatory affairs and other medical specialists.

New working models

Driven by recent technological advances, many people are no longer constrained by traditional 9-5 working models. The future of work is changing and the opportunities are endless. According to McKinsey, over one-third of the US workforce identify as independent workers, while 62% of global executives polled by Ceridian think that freelancers will substantially replace full-time employees within the next five years.

The move towards greater flexibility is a trend that is consistent with other changes that have transformed the world of work since the pandemic struck. This aligns with our own experience with candidates, who say that flexible working is one of their top criteria when considering their next role.

Demographic shifts

By 2030, 1.4 billion, or one in six people in the world, will be aged 60 years or over and this is expected to reach more than two billion people by 2050. The proportion of people of working age globally is therefore shrinking, while the relative number of those retiring is expanding, driving acute labour shortages across every sector. This is further compounded by existing STEM talent retiring and insufficient young people entering STEM roles.

Changing demographics are one of the driving forces behind research and development and greater use of automation technologies to boost productivity. This leads to a rise in demand for a highly skilled workforce, as well as increased rates of pay, especially in STEM fields. Older workers who may need to be tempted back to the workforce tend to expect higher salaries than their junior colleagues, which can be a challenge for employers.

Navigating the future

These five global megatrends are driving an exponential growth in demand for specialist talent in life sciences, technology and engineering. It creates challenges for organisations that rely on the skills and expertise of these professionals and huge opportunities for those working in these fields. Learn more about the actions your organisations should be taking in this environment in our article How companies can capitalise on global megatrends.


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