Employers need to recognise the value of career development

Having clear career pathways to attract and retain sought-after specialists in STEM is crucial 

Two renewables engineers hanging from harness entering access point of an up and running wind turbine


Career development helps retention

Research highlights

Light Background Career Opportunities

Key take-away

STEM employers who can deliver on career development requirements stand a better chance of retaining key members of their workforce

Innovation Light Background

Key statistic

42% (2,082) of overall respondents say that career development opportunities will be one of the most important factors when they are searching for new roles

Technology 01 Light Background


Offering a clear route to professional development and skills training within an organisation makes it a more attractive proposition for STEM candidates. Yet STEM employers sometimes don’t recognise that having a career trajectory in place is important to new recruits from their first day at work, not something that kicks in after six months. Evidence strongly indicates that it can become a deal-breaker when employees feel that it’s time for a career change.

The SThree How the STEM World Works research confirms its importance: 42% (2,082) of total respondents cite it as an important factor when searching for new roles, behind salary/benefits (60%), flexible working options (54%) and work/life balance (53%) (Table 8). This aligns with results from the SThree Youth Survey, where opportunities for career development rated consistently as an influential factor in wanting to pursue a career in STEM.

Furthermore, a lack of career development acts as spur to leaving a job. This is particularly the case when it’s considered that businesses can be reluctant to offer enhanced salary or bonus packages unless an employee’s role changes significantly. Without a clear career development path, those opportunities become limited. In such cases it’s little wonder when employees take shorter-term contracts and look externally for better alternatives.

The Work Institute’s 2020 Retention Report reflects our survey findings, showing that a lack of development opportunities is the top reason for leaving for the 10th consecutive year. “Employees 42% (2,082) of overall respondents say that career development opportunities will be one of the most important factors when they are searching for new roles. 42% leave because they want to learn, grow and be challenged in their roles at work,” the Work Institute states. “If not challenged, they will find a job where they will be.”

“Attrition has always been costly for companies, but in many sectors the cost of losing employees is rising, due to the tight labour markets and the increasingly collaborative nature of jobs,” Brian Kropp, HR Practice Group VP at Gartner, said back in 2018. “If employees do not see [their employers] investing in their future with them, they are going to look somewhere else [to progress their careers].”

Other contributory factors lead to career development frustrations. Gartner research found that over the past decade, due to structural rationalisation, many organisations have removed several layers of middle management. This has resulted in fewer opportunities for internal promotion.


Dark Background Career Opportunities

Career development helps retention

Only candidates in Singapore (71%) and the United Arab Emirates (62%) said that career development opportunities were the most important issues for them when looking for a new role. It remains, however, an important consideration for those in several countries, including Japan (74%), Austria (50%) and the USA (58%).

Some 14% of respondents put a greater focus on career development and growth opportunities available in the 12 months prior to participating in the survey (Table 9). Asked which of these changes will they still consider when searching for a role, 43% indicated career development/growth opportunities (Table 10).

In the SThree STEM Youth Survey, meanwhile, 34% of respondents put ‘continuous learning and development’ among their top three reasons for pursuing a career in STEM. A further 31% included ‘opportunities for career development’.

“STEM companies are placing much more emphasis on career development and training to not only attract, but also retain their top talent,” says SThree CEO Timo Lehne. “Further, we see that many STEM employers now believe that ensuring candidates can see that they have a career path that is structured is critical to retaining highly-skilled STEM professionals.”

Timo adds: “Anecdotal evidence of training opportunities is especially evident in the IT and other tech sectors, as well as in life sciences. There are also more limited opportunities in manufacturing.”

Career development tables

How the STEM World Works

Close up of female infrastructure engineer wearing a hijab sorting data cables in cabinet

Extending the recruitment search creates new opportunities

By extending their recruitment search to other sectors, STEM organisations can increase their chances of finding the most-suitable candid...

Birds eye view of male engineer in orange high vis and hard hat climbing up ladders in chemical plant

Contract workers are in greater demand

Contract workers are in greater demand causing agile, change-aware STEM organisations to rethink the ways they access talent and capability.

Young child reaching out hand and finger to touch the index finger of a robot

Making a difference is becoming an important factor when searching for a new job

STEM employers can enhance their attractiveness to top candidates by ensuring that they have a positive impact on society and the environ...

Group of early-career chemists wearing labcoats in lab smiling at tutor

Bringing skilled people together to build the future

STEM professionals know their worth in this changing world of work. And employers need to tap into their skills if they are to build the ...

Dark image with blue and pink shadows on the face of a women holding a tablet and digital pen

How the STEM World Works

This report provides special insight into the career journeys and big picture dynamics that directly and indirectly shape STEM recruitment.

Close up of hand pressing finger print into finger print scanner light up in red

Career aspirations of STEM professionals are changing

STEM professionals' career aspirations are changing. We unearth these changing expectations and motivations in our research.

STEM Equity Coalition

Salary and benefits are still the top priority for STEM candidates

Companies who delay in recognising market value of sought-after specialists risk losing them to a better considered offer.

Asian male employee sat on edge of windowsill holding mobile on loud speaker looking at laptop

Flexible working options are no longer regarded as an added benefit

Flexible working options are no longer being regarded as an added benefit – they are now expected to be a standard given of employment.

Black female cyber security engineer looking at screen of code in office

Women are a powerful source of new talent

Women are a powerful source of new talent to help address the STEM gender gap and shortages of STEM skills. But there is still work to do.

Save your copy of the report

Download whitepaper

Find your next role

Discover life-changing jobs in engineering, life sciences and technology with game-changing organisations around the world. 

Seek sought-after specialists

Draw on our global network to recruit the best professionals and find the skills you need tomorrow, today.