Developing the Talent for Tomorrow’s STEM Careers

Building a healthy chemical industry means nourishing it with rich human resources. That process begins with STEM studies and ends at a workplace that encourages growth and fulfillment.

The great minds of the chemical industry have plenty to accomplish in the years ahead: improving sustainability; helping advance developing nations; repaving the information superhighway; producing more-efficient vehicles for roads, air travel, space exploration; and much more.

To meet those goals, though, companies like Chemours must first clear another hurdle: making sure we have the qualified, engaged talent we need.

 

Great opportunities ahead.

Between May 2009 and May 2015, over 800,000 net science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs were added to the US economy—more than double the growth of non-STEM occupations. And by 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates there will be one million open STEM jobs.

In fact, 80 percent of the fastest-growing jobs will rely on employees who can apply mathematic and scientific expertise, according to a recent study by Randstad, a Dutch human resources consulting firm.

This sounds like great news for the economy and for future graduates. But while demand for STEM jobs grows exponentially, the pool of US workers to fill them is not keeping pace. In fact, in 2016, the World Economic Forum reported that the U.S. landed in third place with 568,000 STEM graduates—significantly behind China, the leader, which graduated 4.7 million STEM students.

A factoid ranking the top 7 nations in terms of number of STEM graduates—China ranks first with 4.7 million STEM graduates, while the United States ranks third with 568,000 STEM graduates.

Attracting the millennial.

Adding to the challenge for employers like Chemours: Today’s graduates are attracted to a specific type of career and workplace. A core attribute of millennials is that they value work that’s cause-driven and that helps them make a positive impact on society. They also prefer an entrepreneurial workplace and start-up culture.

So our challenges lie in what savvy marketers call “convince and convert.” For HR professionals, this translates into convincing students of the benefits of a STEM curriculum and converting them to think of companies like Chemours as places to invent and innovate, to be proud of the work they do, and to flex their entrepreneurial muscles.

Chemours is tackling these challenges on several fronts.

We’re sending technical fellows to universities as teachers and researchers, igniting student interest and creating bonds between them and our brand. “We can get out the word that, with those kinds of degrees and that kind of educational background, they have lots of opportunities in and out of the private sector and in companies big and small,” says Susan Kelliher, Chemours’ SVP of Human Resources. “So they can really grow a diverse and exciting career.”

Another strategy is to rebrand STEM for millennials and Generation Z by aligning their career preferences for entrepreneurship and cause-driven work with real-world applications of STEM. And that’s just the kind of environment Chemours nurtures.

The keys to retention.

One of our established company values, Collective Entrepreneurship, challenges us to give people space and greater ownership of their work, which unlocks their talent and encourages creative solutions—the kind of corporate culture and mindset new STEM talent seeks. And our recent innovations in more-environmentally responsible and more-sustainable products such as Opteon™ and Teflon EcoElite™ speak directly to millennials’ desire for purpose-driven work that betters the world around them.

Finally, we work to keep the talent we land. We offer continuing education programs, tuition reimbursement, and in-house learning opportunities. We champion diversity and support a company women’s network.

Ultimately, “we’re targeting emerging generations now,” Kelliher says. “We aim to take STEM out of its silo and give it a broader meaning for the future workforce.”

 


A headshot of Susan Kelliher, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, at The Chemours Company.

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A headshot of Susan Kelliher, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, at The Chemours Company.

Susan Kelliher

Senior Vice President, Human Resources

We can get out the word that, with those kinds of degrees and that kind of educational background, they have lots of opportunities in and out of the private sector and in companies big and small.

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