If you recruit staff in any of the STEM-related sectors – science, technology, engineering and maths – then you probably already know how increasingly tough that is. Not least because so many commercial and industrial organisations are embracing the technological revolution and joining the search for people with these key skill sets.

This can leave many recruitment campaigns falling short of enough candidates to interview, even before you pinpoint the applicant who fits the job spec perfectly! The situation is further exacerbated if you’re a relatively small company. In the race to recruit staff with STEM capabilities, the winners tend to be the organisations with the deepest pockets.

However, that is not always the case. There are things you can do as an organisation to close the STEM gap and attract candidates with the right experience and acumen.


Mind the gap

First, let’s look at the problem in more detail, for more background to some of the decisive actions you can use as solutions.

You will no doubt have seen headlines about the global shortfall in STEM skills. The talent pool needed to take full advantage of improved connectivity, automation, AI and data science is not well enough stocked.

The global figures for hard to fill vacancies make for sober reading. So it’s not surprising that the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) feels the UK’s skill shortages are at “critical levels”. (source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/01/10/skills-shortages-critical-levels-risking-uk-growth-research/)

You may also be aware of the campaigns and projects launched to address this serious skills gap, including a drive to attract more women into engineering and technology careers.

Is it working? There are reports that suggest current measures are not going to solve the problem any time soon! In fact, the number of adults in training or education has actually fallen to the lowest levels on record. (source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/08/23/skills-crisis-number-adults-training-falls-record-low/)

According to Department of Education figures, only 37% of people in the UK undertook training of some form over the last three years. When you compare this with the peak in 2001 – 46% of adults in skills training – it shows the numbers are going in the wrong direction.


Recruitment is not always salary-focused

One of the most important things employers must recognise when trying to attract candidates with STEM proficiency and experience is that wages are not everything. People are motivated by more than just money, and developing a career path that takes account of that is vital.

Among the things applicants look for is how ambitious you are as a company. If you can demonstrate that they will be part of a forward-looking team, and that their contribution is a key element of a robust business plan, it all helps! Recruitment of STEM candidates as a knee-jerk reaction, with a muddled job spec or unclear career path, is liable to reap poor results.

Also, an employer with a culture that enables staff to bring their “whole self to work” is potentially going to receive more applications from the right calibre of candidate. This could include flexible working practices, empathy for family commitments and offering good health and welfare support in the workplace, for example.


Equality and diversity

Job satisfaction is more assured if you can demonstrate that you are a diverse and inclusive employer. This is a really important point, and not simply in terms of making your workplace attractive to STEM applicants. It is also about your attitude as an employer.

Sometimes, your STEM recruitment policies need to be fluid and responsive, rather than being run along fixed perimeters. For example, you may need to look for someone who has creativity, ideas and a passion for technology, rather than someone with academic prowess or a long list of previous employers.

Inclusivity needs to factor in more than the usual race, age, gender, religious and disability issues. The best fit for the role may be someone who didn’t look good on paper, for example!


Plan ahead

As there is such a serious shortfall in STEM applicants – and a growing number of companies hungry for these skills – you need to look further ahead as a company. Your recruitment policies may need to be focused more on where you are going as an organisation, rather than your current business needs.

That way, you can constantly be seeking candidates with STEM relevancy, ready to “grab” them and put clear career paths in place. If you are in the engineering sector, in particular, you may need to think in terms of more young applicants that you can train up. Apprenticeships in STEM-related areas are undoubtedly a key way to develop the workforce of the future.


Get help!

As attracting enough STEM candidates does now involve a “hard sell” in recruitment terms, it makes sense to bring in expertise.

Time Recruitment invests heavily in creating a fertile talent pool, but also in matching potential staff and employers in an intuitive way. This avoids time wasted and gets jobs filled – including STEM-related posts – as quickly and effectively as possible.