Asia Pacific report

What influences early career Asian talent in STEM, and how can employers in the Asia Pacific region attract the talent of the future?

Young smiling female Asian student sat in study group

Money isn't the main motivator

Framing flexibility

The hurdles in getting that first job

Conclusion

Introduction

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Highlights

19%

Earnings potential

Only 19% of students consider earnings potential. But 65% of STEM specialists see this as key when searching for new roles. So do financial motives become more important when careers start?

51%

Work/life balance

51% of students feel negative about the work/life balance within STEM. With 53% of experienced STEM specialists prioritising a role which will deliver that work/life balance, this clearly becomes an important criterion.

31%

Securing the job

37% state that their education (skills and training) is the most helpful factor in securing that first STEM role. However, 22% say the biggest obstacle in finding that first STEM job is not having practical work experience.

Introduction

It's projected that by 2030 Japan will experience an estimated shortfall of 450,000 skilled IT professionals according to The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, which described the situation facing the country as a "digital cliff".

The STEM Youth survey, in partnership with the 2021 Social Shifters, looked at the factors and challenges influencing young or early career talent in pursuing a STEM career in the Asia Pacific Region (APAC).

Survey demographics

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Gender

Male: 45%

Female: 37%

Prefer not to say: 18%

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Age

18-24: 55%

25-30: 45%

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Field of study or interest

Engineering: 27%

Technology (computer science and data): 40%

Sciences (life sciences, biology, chemistry and physics): 25%

Mathematics, finance and statistics: 8%

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Qualification level

High school: 24%

Bachelor or undergraduate degree: 51%

Maters or postgraduate degree: 21%

Doctoral studies: 4%

Overall, APAC responses were less polarised than other regions as to why respondents chose or considered a STEM career. STEM is viewed as a positive field to work in. Personal interest, learning and development opportunities, and making a difference were the top 3 reasons, separated only by 2-3%. Interestingly, high earnings potential doesn’t appear in the top 6 factors influencing individuals to work within STEM. Although earning lots is not an influential factor, financial security is. APAC respondents were confident that STEM jobs will provide this over the long run.

Three themes arose from the research as strong markers of how employers and other interested parties can attract those interested or already in STEM education into the scarce jobs of the future. These were by understanding the motivations behind a STEM career, what it truly means to be flexible and the hurdles early career STEM talent face.

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Money isn’t the main motivator

Key statistic: Only 19% of students consider earnings potential. But 65% of STEM specialists saw this as key when searching for new roles. So, do financial motives become more important when careers start?

The US and Europe were more financially driven than the APAC regions. However, it is only when in their career that perceptions among APAC professionals change regarding the importance of financial security and the ability to earn more.

APAC respondents had more altruistic views of STEM careers and its ability to leave an impact on the world. But financial drivers become increasingly prioritised as APAC professionals progress through their careers, as seen in our ‘How the STEM world works’ research. This journey aligns with the life goals of APAC's young STEM talent, where financial security is the 2nd most important goal behind making a difference in the world.

Alena Salakhova
"Gen Z is a growing population and they are more vocal. They are our future workforce. So we need to find the right balance between what they expect from us as employers and what we offer them in a role both in the short and long-term." Alena Salakhova, Managing Director, SThree

The current and previous research combined can draw more parallels between APAC's experienced and early career talent. For example, in Japan and Singapore, experienced professionals emphasised that career development was a top, if not the top, consideration when searching for a new role. Whilst early career respondents said it's among the top influential factors encouraging them into STEM.

So, while money isn’t the main motivator early in a STEM career for APAC respondents, it must be substituted, for example, with career development or a highly interesting job for the individual.

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Framing flexibility

Key statistic: 51% of students feel negative about the work/life balance within STEM. With 53% of STEM specialists prioritising a role which will deliver that work/life balance, this clearly becomes an important criterion.

It’s clear APAC respondents don’t pursue a STEM career because it’ll provide work/life balance. They pursue it because of the job security, societal impact and the success it will bring them throughout life. Contrary to this, experienced STEM professionals who’ve had a taste of the balanced working life now require it from future jobs.

The difference between the long-term goals and desires of early careerists and experienced STEM professionals suggests that once in a role, individuals realise the value of their skills and experience. In turn, they're more confident in seeking out personal requirements on top of their career goals.

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The hurdles in getting that first job

Key statistic: 37% stated that their education (skills and training) were the most helpful factor in securing that first STEM role. However, 22% said the biggest obstacle in finding that first STEM job was not having practical work experience

Most respondents felt positive that there are jobs out there for them (87%) and that they’re able to meet the entry requirements (84%). Therefore, graduates and students felt confident in the educational institution helping them secure a STEM job. Despite this, graduates are struggling to find jobs suitable for them because they lack practical or work-related experience. This highlights a disconnect between the expectations of graduates and the requirements of employers. Employers could be struggling to hire early career talent because they may be asking too much of them and do not consider the long-term investment in training and development as a tool for retention.

“Everyone wants a skilled worker. Almost no one wants to have an employee whom they have to train first. It has been quite some time since I have been searching for jobs. And, almost all of them require work experience.”

One respondent highlighted that, “Access to research opportunities and shifting the focus away from academic grades to skills when hiring for STEM careers” could help. Education institutions can place greater emphasis on obtaining practical experiences and skills, offering a ‘hybrid’ approach to students' learning. Employers must reconsider the long-term value of STEM graduates and consider how best to attract and retain them given the growing shortage of STEM skills at an experienced level.

Conclusion

In APAC, STEM is seen as providing a career that delivers development, security, mobility and opportunities. There is less focus on financial reward within roles, especially from Japan-based respondents. Overall, STEM is perceived as a career for life, which provides many avenues for development and growth both professionally and personally.

There is an important lesson to understand here. Obtaining practical experience and support through placements and internships is just as important as having the support in place for continuous development. Without offering one or the other, employers will struggle to attract early career STEM talent.

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