Academia News BlockDepending on the research source, the shortage of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professionals entering the U.S. labor market ranges somewhere between acute and dire.

Economic projections are pointing to a need for 1 million more STEM professionals than the U.S. is currently producing at the current rate over the next decade, according to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. By the council’s estimates, the U.S. would need to increase its annual production of undergraduates receiving STEM degrees by 34% over current rates to match the demand forecast for STEM professionals.

In 2015, computer and mathematical occupations employed roughly 4.7 million workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But it’s not just a shortage of STEM professionals that IT executives are concerned with. STEAM is an alternative acronym that’s gaining traction which refers to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. By integrating STEM with the arts, academics and researchers believe that creative thinking can help young professionals with the problem-solving and deductive-reasoning skills that are needed to tackle the business and technology challenges in today’s fast-paced, disruptive economy.

Taking this a step further is the importance of literacy skills. STREAM includes the Reading/Writing component. With the flood of data that’s pouring in from a variety of sources (web, mobile, text, machine data, etc.), future IT/business professionals need the ability to be able to read, comprehend, analyze, and act quickly on large volumes of information.

While CIOs are looking for college grads with strong STEM/STEAM/STREAM skills, they also want aspiring tech professionals who have hands-on business experience and critical problem-solving skills. Increasingly, CIOs are expecting colleges and universities to provide undergrads with real-world training and learning environments so that they’re ready to hit the ground running and not require a great deal of on-the-job tutoring. This could be accomplished, in part, by taking students through concrete business scenarios and projects they could work on as well as internships and other immersive endeavors.

To help address these needs, CIOs can work directly with local colleges and universities that they actively recruit from to communicate the specific skill sets they’re looking for. This can include evaluating course components and offering recommendations to strengthen their ability to apply IT knowledge to firsthand business challenges.

Moreover, CIOs can provide college students with real-world experience themselves by creating robust internship programs that enable students to obtain valuable work experience. The added benefit for CIOs is that they can also address short-term, entry-level project resource requirements while gauging whether a particular student is a good cultural fit for the organization long-term.

To help tackle the STEM/STEAM/STREAM labor shortages, CIOs can also become more actively involved with academia and associations to help engage young men and women well before they reach university age.

For its part, the Society for Information Management (SIM) and the Philadelphia Philanthropic Society for Information Management (PHISIM) both support a Teen Tech camp run by InspiriTec each summer. The camping program provides a fun and engaging environment that exposes teens to IT concepts and potential careers in technology.

Ultimately, it’s about finding IT staffers who have a passion for what they do and aren’t afraid to take risks. “We’re looking for creative people who are not afraid of figuring out solutions,” said Shobhana Ahluwalia, Head of Information Technology at Uber in an HMG Strategy video. “We’re just looking for people who go for it.”

Key Takeaways

  • Industry projections point to a need for 1 million more STEM professionals than the U.S. is currently producing at the current rate over the next decade.
  • Demand is also growing for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) and STREAM (with ‘R’ representing reading/writing) professionals who can draw upon their artistic acumen to attack problem-solving creatively and to gather, analyze, and act on large volumes of data effectively.
  • To help address these needs, CIOs can work directly with local colleges and universities to identify and recommend approaches for incorporating real-world experiences and skills into their curricula.