Talent gap impacted by lack of STEM skills

The gap between skill levels and requirements for many 21st century jobs can be a challenge for employers, and a workforce with proper science, technology, engineering and mathematics training will be important for the future of innovation, according to recent research from Raytheon Company. The research predicted more than 8.6 million STEM jobs will exist in the U.S. by 2018, with the importance of finding qualified professionals remaining significant to employers. 

Some of the research's findings included:

  • The U.S. unemployment rate is 7.6 percent, but there are 3.6 million open jobs
  • Sixty-seven percent of manufacturing companies are experiencing a labor shortage, and half of them believe the shortage will increase in the next 3 to 5 years
  • Half of the 17-year-olds in the U.S. are not qualified to work in a modern auto plant
  • Only 42 percent of employers believe college and pre-employment training programs sufficiently prepare new graduates for the STEM needs of the workforce
  • Scientists and engineers make up 4 percent of the nation's workforce

The talent shortage is hard to deny when a recent Harvard University report found American students ranked 25th in math skills, 17th in science and 14th in reading compared to other countries. According to the Raytheon research, U.S. students are currently unprepared to meet the increasing demand for qualified STEM professionals. Many occupations require STEM skills, including photography, nutrition, and animation, which may come as a surprise to some graduates. 

Trying to bridge the STEM gap
Many believe educating children in STEM fundamentals is critical to diminishing the skills gap in technical fields, according to The Boston Globe. Rather than reading and writing skills, math, science and technology should be emphasized early on so children will be well-equipped to deal with the demands of the modern workforce. STEM is clearly important. Only 4 percent of STEM professionals are unemployed because their skill sets are in high demand.

Many companies are creating corporate initiatives to fund STEM educational programs, according to Raytheon. The importance of STEM training early on has been recognized, and many of these programs seek to involve girls and minorities who have traditionally been underrepresented in science fields. Companies and education providers will need to continue to work together to prevent the STEM skills gap from growing. While strides are being made to improve education, employers can seek the services of technical recruiters to locate top talent for STEM positions.