How one local tech company is tackling the STEM talent shortage - Technical.ly Philly

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Dec. 2, 2019 7:08 am

How one local tech company is tackling the STEM talent shortage

Chief People Officer Hope Bear shares why Chalfont-based email marketing company AWeber is educating young people about tech careers.
AWeber employees in its Chalfont HQ’s game room.

AWeber employees in its Chalfont HQ's game room.

(Courtesy photo)

This is a guest post by AWeber Chief People Officer Hope Bear.

By the year 2025, it’s projected that the United States will have as many as 3.5 million STEM jobs available. Jobs like computer science engineers, research scientists and information technology specialist will be in huge demand. However, 2 million of those jobs may go unfilled due to lack of qualified candidates.

We believe the problem exists for two main reasons.

First is the lack of early education about technology — and not just about the subject matter itself, but about the field as a career option. Secondly, women make up nearly half of the workforce but aren’t entering STEM careers at the same rate as other fields.

Talented team members are the engines of our tech organizations. If we want to keep our engines fueled and continue to serve our customers now and in the future, then leaders have a responsibility to develop the workforce.

Here are some ways we’re doing our part in tackling the STEM talent shortage at email marketing company AWeber.

Partnering with local schools

Most K-12 schools don’t teach students about technology-related careers: About 76% of 11- to 17-year-old students don’t understand what engineers do at work, according to a study by Randstad North America.

If we want to fill those 2 million jobs in the future, we need to bring awareness to tech careers starting at a young age.

That’s why our company invites local high school, middle school and college students to our office in Chalfont, Pennsylvania, for educational events throughout the year. It’s often the first time students are exposed to the inner-workings of a technology company.

These events aren’t meant to introduce students to coding or programming, though. They’re meant to encourage students to keep an open mind and explore their passions because there’s no one path to a successful career in technology.

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Several areas of study can lead to a career in technology, including computer science, design or mathematics. And they don’t need to live in Silicon Valley to work in tech (a common misconception we hear all the time from young students). By opening our doors, we’re showing them that their future in tech may be in their backyard — not across the country.

When the school students visit, we also conduct leadership sessions and panel discussions with members of our team. That way, the students can glimpse a day-in-the-life of different team members and learn about how they got to where they are today.

Supporting more women in tech

Only 19% of computer science bachelor’s degrees were held by women in 2016, according to a 2019 National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics study.

More women in tech means more talent to recruit from, as well as more diversity of thought and innovation. More female role models could speed up this slow drip of diverse talent in the industry.

To combat this problem, AWeber supports a number of nonprofits that provide resources for young women to grow careers in tech and find a community of mentors and a network of tech insiders.

For instance, eight AWeber team members participated in last year’s ChickTech kickoff weekend. They taught workshops about design and programming, and mentored girls ages 13 to 17. They also spent time with them inside and outside the classroom, talking to them about their jobs and college majors, and answering questions. This year, more than half of the girls who attended last year are returning for the program again.

Showing up to mentorship events like this helps break the cycle of lack of representation and mentorship perpetuating the problem.

Small steps make a big difference

As members of the technology community, we need to do our part to develop talent beyond our walls at a very young age. Not only are we taking on the responsibility of educating our communities, we’re setting up our businesses for future success by ensuring a steady flow of tech talent through our doors for years to come.

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