It’s no surprise U.S. companies are having trouble finding workers in this tight labor market. According to CTA’s 2019 Future of Work survey (PDF), 80% of employers say it is difficult to find candidates with the right skills and abilities today and 50% believe it will become even more difficult over the next five years.
But with challenges come opportunities. To address the talent pipeline, employers should collaborate with their local educational institutions. Whether with K-12 or community colleges, employers can invest in the future workforce by forging relationships with educators.
The survey found only one in four employers find skilled candidates by co-creating curriculums with four-year universities, technical schools or community colleges. This number is too low – tech companies should be able to engage with local schools to create a sustainable skilled talent pipeline. Consider community colleges: They are more flexible than traditional four-year institutions to respond to local employer needs.
For example, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) addresses current and future talent needs by partnering with businesses through industry advisory boards, apprenticeship programs, employer focus groups and surveys.
“With this ecosystem in place, we create a data-driven talent development system that adapts quickly to economic trends and works for local businesses, students and the community,” says Melanie Stover, director, corporate and workforce engagement, NOVA. “It is critically important for NOVA to work closely and frequently with companies to prepare our region for the careers of tomorrow and create a sustainable talent pipeline.”
Only 15% of respondents on average say their company actively offers, sponsors or directly supports STEM learning opportunities for K-12 and vocational school students. The numbers are most alarming when broken down by elementary school grades – a crucial age for children to engage with STEM subjects, according to the National Science Foundation. Only 9% of companies engage with grades K-2 and 10% engage with grades 3-5. There’s a correlation between early exposure to STEM and later success in those subjects or in school.
To increase key learning opportunities at a young age, CTA is partnering with Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington (BGCGW). BGCGW provides STEM program opportunities to all their youth. Nearly 70% of their members report only receiving STEM education through their participation with BGCGW. Of those participants, 91% report that they believe the knowledge they’ve gained from these programs will help best prepare them to find a job. “It is through the support of corporate partners that BGCGW is able to consistently provide this imperative programming that ultimately sets members up for success in adulthood,” says CEO Gabrielle Webster.
Rethinking hiring practices creates a more inclusive workplace and new opportunities to invest in the workforce pipeline. At the same time, the U.S. tech industry has a responsibility to work with educational institutions – from kindergarten to college – to ensure students have the right skills to be valuable and productive employees.