Extending the recruitment search creates new opportunities

By extending their recruitment search to other sectors, STEM organisations can increase their options considerably – and with it, their chances of finding the most suitable candidates

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Broad range of backgrounds

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Research highlights

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Key take-away

Employers stand a better chance of achieving their recruitment objectives if they look beyond their traditional talent pools

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Key statistic

36% of respondents would now consider a move to a different industry than the one they currently work in when searching for a new STEM role

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The steep escalation of demand for STEM expertise means that traditional methods of skills acquisition must be rethought. They don’t deliver results when there are evidently too few candidates with the exact qualifications and experience. As a result, across all of STEM’s sectors and sub-sectors, employers have now realised that they need to re-focus their approach to finding talent if they are to successfully recruit into key jobs

Three strategies for doing this are open to them:

  • To identify candidates whose skills match the requirements for a STEM role, but who do not already identify themselves as a STEM professional.
  • To seek-out applications from candidates whose careers have been outside of STEM sectors, but who want to change career course and enter a STEM profession.
  • Actively target ‘passive’ candidates also from outside traditional STEM professions, but with proven core competences on which STEM skills could be developed.

A further option that is available to STEM employers is to train early-career candidates themselves from scratch. This looks bound to result in a fortuitous meeting of minds between employers and potential new employees, because candidates are having similar ideas about switching their career directions between defined sectors. Increasingly, core competences are deemed transferable between different vertical sectors and professional roles.

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Broad range of backgrounds

Asked what their main area of study was before they began their STEM career, 30% of respondents said engineering, 27% technology and 20% science. Mathematics trailed by a significant margin, coming in with 7% (Table 12).

Others had studied a broad range of topics, from psychology and marketing to architecture and graphic design. This could indicate that the opportunities in STEM are attractive to candidates across the economy – possibly because investments in STEM businesses and industries have increased.

For example, in Germany, the MINT action plan (MINT – mathematics, IT, science, technology – is the German equivalent of STEM) was launched by the government in 2019 with a €55m investment. In the UK the government announced a multi-million-pound package of STEM investment in March 2020. And in 2021, the Japanese government announced plans to establish an $88bn university fund to promote Japan as a science and technology nation.

Changing industries also implies a change of career path and a change of professional specialism – both of which candidates acknowledge they would consider (or have done) – 8% and 7%, respectively (Table 13).

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“It’s notable that several of the survey respondents do not consider that they work in a STEM sector,” says SThree CEO Timo Lehne. “Indeed, it appears that sometimes they do not grasp the full scope of STEM as it applies across multiple vertical sectors. Rather than working in the ‘STEM industry’, they consider themselves as technologists, engineers, software specialists, data analysts, and so forth.”

STEM employers need the best candidates for specific roles based on the skill sets that they can offer. The lesson here is that by extending their searches to other sectors, they can increase their options considerably – and their chances of finding the best person for the job. This reinforces an argument in favour of using the services of specialist recruiters to search across a much wider talent pool to identify relevant expertise outside of their traditional hunting grounds.

Meanwhile, how are those candidates from outside of STEM finding their way into STEM professions? “As mentioned, many of the people we surveyed do not really consider themselves to be employed within STEM – either on a contract or permanent basis,” Timo explains. “Rather, they think of themselves as working in specific professional sub-sectors. This approach can lead to them missing out on lucrative positions, and so using a third party with a broader knowledge of the market is critical for them to realise their full value, and capitalise on opportunities that may not otherwise present themselves.”

SThree recruitment consultants are already seeing a lot of movement between sectors. This is especially evident in IT and tech, where there is much greater mobility. This is evidence that leading organisations are looking for skill-sets rather than sector experience (as per the above point).

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