New Randstad Survey Shows Demand for STEM Education

Madeleine Janz

September 24, 2019

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This summer, Randstad released its Q2 Workmonitor survey that revealed workplace anxieties over a lack of STEM education. The survey focused on workplace needs and tensions, finding that many employees are looking for more STEM-related skills for their current jobs. A majority of those surveyed suggested that students today should focus on their own STEM education, as they see how necessary it is in their workplace.

The survey also honed in on a solution to a discrepancy in STEM education: upskilling. This means educating current employees on new STEM skills that they can use moving forward, instead of the slash and burn method of firing old talent and hiring new. WITI talked to Alan Stukalsky, Randstad North America's Chief Digital Officer, about the survey's key findings.

1) Why do you think the American workforce feel they need STEM education?
They already see the skills gap and demand for STEM-related jobs all around them. As more companies embrace tech innovations that will increase company profit margins, they will need employees who can manage or work alongside them. Per our recent Workmonitor study, nearly half (47%) say their employers have an increasing need for STEM talent, and 58 percent think it will be increasingly difficult for their employers to find the right talent in the future. Given the high demand, they believe they'd have more personal potential (both in terms of salary and job opportunities) if they could expand their skills.

2) Do you think employers value STEM skills over communication skills in the modern era?
In a word, no. In fact, Randstad US is seeing many employers in the tech industry hiring for cultural fit or excellent soft skills (communication, problem-solving, creativity, emotional intelligence, etc.) first, and then upskilling or teaching the technical skills post-hire. Technical skills will always be essential in STEM roles, but thanks to the rise of automation, soft skills are increasingly critical. Being a standout employee now means more than knowing how to do your job, and those who pair strong, hard skills with well-developed soft skills will stand out in the talent pool. In particular, superior communication abilities are increasingly necessary for automated environments and are needed for developing and sharing proposals and expressing complex ideas verbally or through email.

3) The survey findings say, "Only 27 percent (of U.S. workers) expect their job to be automated in the next five to 10 years, making Americans seemingly more optimistic than most of their global counterparts". (Across 33 countries, 35% of workers feel this way). Why do you think Americans are more optimistic about digitization as compared to the workforce across the world?
Americans are more optimistic because we've been seeing the benefits that automation and digitization can bring for several years. We are surrounded by examples of digitization developed by large companies and small startups as almost every city now has a startup incubator. Many global technology giants are based in the U.S. and we are privileged to use and obtain the technology prior to them deploying new features globally. Our STEM study showed that as early as 2017, 48 percent already said automation/machine learning has either transformed or had a positive impact on their business, and 45 percent said the same about robotics. The undeniable reality is digitalization and AI are here to stay, and workers know they'll continue to gain prominence in the future.

4) What resources are American workers using to gain STEM education?
In addition to more traditional educational routes like taking classes (or even getting additional degrees), many employees are turning to online resources, such as webinars, online degrees and online certifications. The online learning platforms such as Udemy, Coursera or Skillshare have a wide range of STEM classes from beginner to advanced for any STEM field. Many of these shorter programs are built around specific skills, e.g. Google Analytics Academy, Code Academy.

5) Do any companies stand out to you as leading the upskilling movement?
Two recent high-profile examples are JP Morgan Chase, who announced a New Skills at Work program designed to identify and train current operations employees into IT roles, and Amazon, who pledged to upskill 100,000 employees by 2025. Obviously those companies have more resources than the average organization, but any company can - and should - follow their example, at their own scale. Quality upskilling doesn't have to mean a big budget. If the training is targeted appropriately it will ultimately save companies money because they won't need to hire and onboard new workers.

6) What will happen if companies don't invest in upskilling?
Employees will most likely leave to seek out prospective employers that will invest in their abilities. As our research found, professional development is extremely important to the modern worker. Forty-nine percent had to upskill on their own for AI/ML skills because their companies didn't, and last year Randstad US conducted research showing that across all industries, 58 percent of workers agree their companies don't currently have enough growth opportunities for them to stay long term. Companies will lose out because future success largely rests on organizations' ability to strike a balance between valuable human insight and interaction with technology, which depends on having skilled employees, and the ability to retain them.

You can read the survey here and take part in WITI's upskilling opportunities here.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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