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 environment

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'STEM-for-good' could win-over candidates

Research highlights

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Key take-away

Top talent wants to work for organisations that actively seek to have a positive impact on society

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Key statistic

Nearly 20% of respondents say that the potential to contribute to society is a driving factor for them when searching for new roles

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With STEM jobseekers having more choice than ever, leading companies are reviewing the packages they’re offering to see what elements could bring additional differentiation to attract savvy talent. Bupa, for instance, noticed an increasing number of people had been asking questions about the health insurer’s sustainability goals during their job interviews.

Bupa surveyed 2,000 adults on their views about the importance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments. More than half of respondents said they would ‘stay longer than they otherwise might’ with a company that had made stretching ESG commitments. The figure rose to 60% among respondents aged 18 to 22.

During the Covid-19 pandemic STEM specialists have taken inspiration from sectors such as healthcare and engineering. The response of these and other professions highlighted the life-changing impact that STEM can make in a crisis-stricken world.

It’s something instilled at an early age. More than half of young people aged 10 to 18-year olds told a 2020 study for the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) that they were considering a career in science and technology after seeing how engineers mobilised in response to the pandemic. The alacrity and professionalism with which new life-saving ventilators were developed, and buildings converted into critically-needed hospitals, raised awareness of how important STEM is to our daily lives. 

Results from both SThree’s How the STEM World Works research and STEM Youth Survey confirm that the STEM professions’ ongoing response to the pandemic has continued to reinforce STEM’s ability to enable them to make a positive contribution to both the Covid-19 crisis and the wider needs of society in general.

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‘STEM-for-good’ could win-over candidates

In the STEM Youth Survey 35% of respondents said the opportunity to make a difference was the factor that most influenced their decision to pursue a career in STEM – second only to having a personal interest in their chosen subject matter (43%).

The opportunity to make a difference in the world consistently appeared in respondents’ lists of life goals that were of greatest importance to them across both the 18–24 and 25–30 age ranges. It also ran third place to ‘a desire for financial security’ and ‘finding a purpose’ to guide them in their lives.

While making a difference in the world was prioritised by respondents located in Europe (31%) and Asia-Pacific (37%), it was most highly rated by respondents located in Africa (59%). Within the four main STEM sectors, making a difference in the world was the life goal most highly esteemed by respondents in engineering and mathematics (both 41%). Only narrow margins separated them from the sciences and technology, which also both registered a 37% rating.

Clearly, these findings have significance for the search for STEM specialists. They highlight how a career aspiration that had previously been largely associated with vocational career paths, in healthcare and humanitarian aid for instance, is now also identified by quality candidates as intrinsic to working in a STEM sector or sub-sector. As such it means that employer organisations should be fully aware of how it could influence STEM candidates’ decisions.

Embedding ‘STEM-for-good’ into a company culture, for instance, resonates positively with STEM professionals during the recruitment process and could swing a decision in favour of job offer acceptance.
Connections should be made between every workforce role and STEM-for-good commitments.

The STEM professions' response to the pandemic reinforced STEM's ability to help make a positive contribution to the world.

Sustainability programmes, for example, should be referenced in recruitment information packs, company boilerplates, publications and job descriptions – as should any industry awards or accolades won for ESG best practice achievements. To fully benefit from this, employers must ensure that their positioning messages are articulated clearly, visibly and – of course – credibly. It’s no good for organisations to only talk about activities, savvy specialists can see through broad claims. They need the proof points and live examples that bring stories to life.

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