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Current Talent Shortage

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Current Talent Shortage

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Apr 27, 2016 10:14 am

No one here likes to talk about this, but it is a fact. There is a talent shortage in science and engineering jobs -- at least, in the minds of those who are hiring. This makes it real. And, it's been created by the employers themselves. Here's a terrific article about the root causes of the problem and it may point the way towards a "fix" at some point in the future. I'd suggest, even if you've been looking for a job for two years, that you read this article and perhaps understand more about why it is that you are not getting called into that interview. What can we do about this? Let's use this thread to discuss . . .

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http://www.eremedia.com/ere/7-ways-we-created-the-current-talent-shortage/?utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=28968049
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Re: Current Talent Shortage

Postby Dave Walker » Wed Apr 27, 2016 12:02 pm

A great topic for discussion, Dave.

Here I see two forces moving in opposite directions: the employers' idea of a lack of hirable talent, and a large percentage of STEM graduates available for work. (Did you catch this statistic from the article: between 2010-2020 in the US, there are projected 2.5 million STEM job openings, but the number of STEM graduates is greater than 3.8 million people!) Clearly STEM graduates are not finding STEM jobs, or positions looking for talent would be filled.

What can we do? I love two suggestions from the article: a focus on professional development and stopping intuition-based hiring.

In my experience encouraging an employee's career development is hard, and time-consuming. When faced with immediate needs and company growth goals, I feel that development gets moved to the bottom of the list subconsciously. In the same way that some PIs don't really understand how to help a student choose a career, some managers leave development for a once-yearly performance review.

Stopping intuition-based hiring is another very slippery subject, but I think there's a large upside to both the economy and the company.

I'm thinking back to a controversial piece of writing from a small-company software CEO Brooke Allen: How my life was changed when I began caring about the people I did not hire https://web.archive.org/web/20160304022853/http://brookeallen.com/pages/archives/1234

In the 2000s, he gauged the interest of his applicants, but not their resumes. He trained applicants in a computing language, gave them a real-world problem, and then, most importantly, promoted them to his colleagues after he saw their interest. Many of his applicants would have been otherwise rejects: new graduates, career changers, minorities. If he couldn't hire them, he was able to get them offers from other companies.

Is this optimal for the life sciences? Maybe not, and I can't advocate for giving someone homework without compensation. But such a radical approach like this might be what we need to break free of the opposing forces that keep the "talent storage" stuck.
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Re: Current Talent Shortage

Postby Rich Lemert » Wed Apr 27, 2016 12:32 pm

Several years ago I read an essay arguing that the only way to see how someone will perform in a job is to observe them doing that job. The author therefore suggested that once you've identified several candidates for a position, you bring them in for a week as a paid consultant. You give them an office and any necessary equipment (computers, etc), assign them an internal contact, and give them a real project that can be completed within a week.

The benefits to the candidates include being compensated for their time while being given a chance to demonstrate their abilities.

The benefits to the company include getting real - but low priority - assignments completed while being able to observe and evaluate candidates "real-world" performance.
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Re: Current Talent Shortage

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Apr 27, 2016 1:03 pm

Rich Lemert wrote:Several years ago I read an essay arguing that the only way to see how someone will perform in a job is to observe them doing that job. The author therefore suggested that once you've identified several candidates for a position, you bring them in for a week as a paid consultant. You give them an office and any necessary equipment (computers, etc), assign them an internal contact, and give them a real project that can be completed within a week.

The benefits to the candidates include being compensated for their time while being given a chance to demonstrate their abilities.

The benefits to the company include getting real - but low priority - assignments completed while being able to observe and evaluate candidates "real-world" performance.


Rich, interesting comment and one that I agree with wholeheartedly. I've long felt that even such short-term "internships" have value, and that it could make an incredible difference in the transition to industry for many academics.

I see that there's a need for some kind of non-profit foundation to advocate for STEM job seekers, perhaps to seek contributions from deep pockets which can then pay the wage for that one-week consultancy, so that companies get the benefit of the work being done (for free) while they make their decision about whom to hire. I think this would benefit many forum readers and we need to talk more about how it could be managed.

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Re: Current Talent Shortage

Postby PACN » Wed Apr 27, 2016 3:42 pm

It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure how practical. I don't know that most people could take a week off for every job interview-- the pay is nice, but I only have so much vacation time. If I didn't get a job on the first try, I'd have to wait months to be able to earn enough time to try again. And I can't afford to quit one job until I have a new offer in hand.
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Re: Current Talent Shortage

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Apr 27, 2016 6:13 pm

PACN wrote:It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure how practical. I don't know that most people could take a week off for every job interview-- the pay is nice, but I only have so much vacation time. If I didn't get a job on the first try, I'd have to wait months to be able to earn enough time to try again. And I can't afford to quit one job until I have a new offer in hand.


I'm not sure how I feel about this post. Perhaps, it's just a difference in definitions . . . I certainly wasn't suggesting that on every job interview you'd have to take a week for a special project.

But, if you were a finalist for a position, and you wanted that job, wouldn't you accept a week's paid consultancy to take a shot at it? I would hope that every reader of this forum would have that kind of burning desire to make a successful transition. I wouldn't be too receptive, if I were the hiring manager, to someone who I offered $2000 to, and who was one of two or three people who had a shot at a full-time job in my team. I think that would be a real turn off.

Making the move from academia to industry takes a huge effort. If something like this was offered, my guess is still that those who were interested would raise their hand and find a way to make it work. Perhaps it would end up being a filter - those who make the move successfully to industry would be self-selected, so to speak.

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Re: Current Talent Shortage

Postby Dick Woodward » Wed Apr 27, 2016 8:46 pm

I think that we should also remember that the largest and fastest-growing segment of the STEM fields is computer and mathematical occupations. Several sources (including the AFL-CIO; see http://dpeaflcio.org/programs-publications/issue-fact-sheets/the-stem-workforce-an-occupational-overview/) and others that have been posted here before suggest that these are about 50 - 75% of the STEM positions, depending upon definitions of STEM (the AFL-CIO includes architecture and social sciences in STEM). Additionally, the AFL-CIO study indicates that computer and mathematical occupations accounted for 98.7% of STEM job growth between 2003 and 2013, while life, physical and social science occupations lost 68,000 jobs during this period.

We can all agree that different sources use different definitions of STEM, and have different sources for the numbers; however, when you take the "T' out of "STEM", it presents an entirely different picture.

Dave Walker and Rich Lemert point out interesting ways of evaluating candidates, but it is from the "T" viewpoint; you can train people to be capable (as opposed to proficient or competent) in programming languages much more quickly than you can judge a person's capabilities in physical, chemical or biological sciences. However, in those sciences, you can often determine something about a person's capabilities from their resume. Your decision therefore has to involve "can they fit in to our operation, both technologically and culturally?" and this can often involve intuition as much as anything else. We must remember that intuition is often the result of the "brain drawing on past experiences and external cues to make a decision – but one that happens so fast the reaction is at a non-conscious level." (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080305144210.htm) Put another way, I once read something to the effect that intuition is the result of your acting upon information that you don't yet realize that you have.

Bottom line - there may be less of a glut of talent in the parts of STEM that this forum addresses than one might think - but regardless of that, there is still a place for intuition in hiring.

One man's opinion...

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Re: Current Talent Shortage

Postby Rich Lemert » Wed Apr 27, 2016 9:24 pm

Dick

The approach I outlined is obviously not perfect - no hiring process is, but I think it's more widely applicable than you seem to feel. All it takes is a creative approach to coming up with an appropriate 'consulting' project.

Let's say your biggest competitor just announced a new product. You could ask the applicant how he/she would go about analyzing and/or characterizing it. If you've got their patent, you could ask him/her if there's any way they think you can get around it.

You're not going to see how they work at the bench, but chances are you've already got a good idea about that from your reference checks and reviews of their publications.

What you can see is how they go about approaching the problem. Do they get into minutia right away, or do they start with a 'big-picture' overview? Are they fairly methodical, or do they jump around a lot? Do they manage their time well, so that they deliver a product to you at the end of the week? Do they suggest next steps?

Your primary goal with this process is not to obtain a finished product, but to see how the person works. That's also part of the reason for assigning them a contact; do they ask "who are the internal resources I can access for this project?", or are they a lone-wolf.
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Re: Current Talent Shortage

Postby Dick Woodward » Thu Apr 28, 2016 10:35 am

Rich:

You are correct that direct observation is always useful if it is possible. In fact, it can be useful for both the applicant and the employer, as the applicant may decide that the employer is not a place that the applicant would like to work.

The points that I was trying to make are a) that the "T" is really the largest part of the "STEM" professions and b) that there is still a place for intuition in hiring.

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Re: Current Talent Shortage

Postby Raphael Mueller » Thu Apr 28, 2016 11:00 am

I think in the life sciences / pharma the hiring managers are partially responsible for this situation.

"Employers have raised minimum job requirements to very high levels. Jobs that a decade ago required a certificate or an Associate Degree (A.A. or A.S.) or less are now being filled by those with bachelor’s or even master’s degrees."

I have graduated about 6 years ago and looking at my fellow students where they landed:

- PhD then Clinical Trial Associate (Job description requires BSc)
- PhD + Postdoc then Associate Project Manager (requires BSc)
- PhD then Regulatory Affairs Associate (Job description requires MSc or PhD)
- PhD then Clinical Research Associate (Job description requires Nursing or BSc)
- PhD then Clinical Expert Manager (Job description requires Advanced life science degree)
- PhD + PostDoc then Clinical Data Manager (Job description requires BSc)

ALL OF THEM: Are doing administrative work and they all agree that their work could be done by a person with common sense and a high school diploma.
At the same time, when I ask them if they don't want to do a additional professional degree to understand the details of their field(computer science, clinical trial, regulatory affairs etc), they tell me that "No, I went for nearly 10 years to university, I did enough". And then they complain that they should earn a salary that is comparable to Director level at other normal companies, just because they work in pharma.

We have a clear skills missmatch on the market because people have the impression they need to stay in grad school for years because employers started to raise the requirements, even if what you learn is often very far away from what you need to do later on...

We would have been far better off today, if all people would be hired straight out of a Bachelor and getting internal or professional external training to have the necessary skills and knowledge for their work. -> Constant learning on the job.
Last edited by Raphael Mueller on Thu Apr 28, 2016 5:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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