SThree plays an integral part in helping our clients find the right talent for their business, particularly those involved in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
But when it comes to the younger generation, how do you bring the wealth of opportunities available in these areas come alive?
It’s a question that we spend a lot of time thinking about here at SThree. We want to be able to help our clients fulfil their talent objectives not just now, but in the future too. That means that increasing the STEM talent pipeline is a big focus for us.
The UK is a major player in the world of STEM, and it wants to stay that way. Science is as important to the modern world as it ever was, technology is ever-more pervasive in our daily lives, engineering is present in almost all of our everyday products as indeed is maths. It’s clear that being ahead in STEM is crucial to sustaining the continued growth and stability of the UK and global economies.
However, study after study has shown that, worldwide, there is a shortage in the number of people with expertise in this area compared to the number of jobs that will become available. There is a real need to spread the message to younger people of the sheer scale of opportunities available within STEM.
Two of our employees, Nikki Richards, Account Manager, and Ashley McCuskey, Client Relationship Manager, both at SThree brand Huxley Banking and Finance have been involved in a couple of initiatives recently to further our cause.
The Big Bang Fair
Nikki and Ashley recently attended the Big Bang South East, an interactive engineering and science event designed to raise the profile of young people’s achievements in science and engineering. It’s attended by more than 7,000 9-19 year olds and their teachers from across the region.
Nikki and Ashley both work in the area of Banking and Finance, which is one of the many choices open to young people studying a STEM subject, but in more recent years has had a much maligned reputation. Part of their mission is to resurrect it as the number one choice.
“Part of the challenge is reassuring them that a career in this area is really worthwhile, and that the roles within it are really exciting,” says Nikki. “A lot of young people we spoke to were saying ‘I want to get a job in the City’ but they didn’t really know what that meant, so part of our work was in educating them on what the sorts of opportunities were. Things like the fact that the complexities of banking and finance will always be there, and therefore the work that they will be doing will be really interesting.”
“Working in technology is cool at the moment,” adds Ashley. “So that’s where a lot of people’s focus is. However, if you’re a gaming developer, that’s what you do day in day out, but if you’re in banking and finance, there are lots of different avenues you can take. You can choose to become an expert in one area or you can diversify and try different environments and problem-solving areas. The benefits of working there are long-term, and that’s what we tried to get across.”
Avenues into the job
Another area the majority of young people attending the trade fair were unaware of was the fact that there are various routes into STEM industries, not just university, as Nikki explains:
“Quite a few said that they didn’t want to go to university, and were unaware that there were other avenues. We provided a lot of information about apprenticeships and about school leavers’ programmes as quite a few of our clients provide these now.”
Female participation in the STEM workforce
This was particularly relevant to Nikki’s school outreach work. She recently visited her former school’s careers fair to extoll the virtues of a career in STEM. This wasn’t the only topic under discussion, however. According to the Women’s Engineering Society, only 9% of the engineering workforce is female. So it’s an obvious choice to solve the skills shortage by attracting more women into the workforce.
“I talked to a lot of the female students to make them aware that industries involved in STEM are crying out for girls to enter their arena, and that they are likely to be very successful,” says Nikki, “most of them had no idea this was the case.”
To illustrate this point Nikki has collected the profiles of successful female entrants into these fields, such as Natalie Finnie, RISE Design Manager at Barclays Bank. Natalie studied Physics at university, unsure of what career path she wanted to take, but knowing that it would give her a diverse set of skills. She upskilled further by continuing to Masters Level and getting involved in computer programming.
This allowed her to join the Barclays Future Leaders programme, a four-year programme which exposes its participants to different areas of the business, in Natalie’s case, to work as a Customer Experience Manager, Innovation Manager, and Digital Solutions Architect. Natalie is now at RISE, a division of Barclays, working with a network of financial start-ups. “She loves her job!” exclaims Nikki.
A subject close to their hearts
Both Nikki and Ashley hold the work they do close to their hearts, but for different reasons. For Nikki, it’s partly because her clients need more women to enter these industries:
“Before I became an account manager I was a consultant working on the developer market, and I saw the lack of female talent that there was in that space. Clients really struggled to find female recruits. I’ve continued to see the lack and it’s something that we are working hard to change,” she says.
For Ashley, her motivation harks back to her younger days:
“From my point of view, when I think back to when I was at school, I didn’t get any career advice like this. I would have liked to have had that knowledge before making any career decisions.
“I really feel we have made an impact through these events on the future pipeline coming through. For our clients, we can offer them something that they can’t find elsewhere. Promoting STEM subjects is also for the greater good,” adds Ashley. “For the economy as a whole, for our clients, and for the young people who are looking to find a fantastic career. Our work is only going to continue.”
If you want to find out more about the Big Bang Fair, visit their website.