Continuous education in STEM skills is key to growth and innovation | Bloomberg Professional Services

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This article was written based on discussions from the latest Bloomberg Women in Fintech event. To learn more about the series, please email [email protected]

80% of the fastest growing careers in the US require STEM education, but according to the US Department of Commerce, changing technology means that a person’s prior education only lasts about five years. Such rapid change poses a singular challenge to tech companies in how they build teams and grow their businesses.

How best to satisfy demand while pursuing targeted professional development was one of several topics under discussion at the latest panel hosted by Bloomberg’s Women in Fintech. There is a multitude of solutions for this issue, but according to panelists, it is essential that companies start addressing STEM education quickly with current and prospective employees at every level, and think in the long term.

At Bloomberg, our approach to education has encouraged employees to evolve, alongside changes in the way we hire. “The data analyst of the past was a subject matter expert in finance and accounting,” explained Suzanne Mulder, Head of Learning within Global Data at Bloomberg.

“About six years ago, we started changing our hiring profile and bringing on people with technical skills and engineering backgrounds to evolve our workforce and the way that we did business. Back then, it wasn’t always easy to find that combination of financial and technical knowledge, but now we’re starting to see more people with financial backgrounds who have learned to code as part of their degree program.”

“That hiring pipeline alone is not going to transform the workforce. We need to focus on our existing employees, too,” said Mulder. “They’re the ones that have the expertise and the deep market knowledge, and we’ve invested in them in a variety of ways.” In addition to developing robust internal skills development programs, championing policies like tuition reimbursement can encourage this kind of learning on an employee’s own terms.

Of course, these kinds of initiatives need support from the highest levels if they’re going to be widely adopted and successful. By deciding to enroll team leaders in proposed trainings first, they’ll understand the benefits firsthand and be fully invested in the programming. “We knew if we wanted them to lead through this transformation, we needed to invest in them so they could take advantage of the skills that we’re hiring for,” said Mulder. When implementing new skills within a workforce, it’s important to be open to change, at every level.

A key part of this equation is ensuring the next generation of talent, and those entering the workforce today, are acquiring the right kinds of skills and advancing their tech knowledge to be competitive in the job market. Increasing the visibility of different opportunities within financial technology is crucial so that students and recent graduates can see the value in STEM education.

By focusing on diverse technology talent, and these non-traditional candidates in particular, companies can meet their hiring needs for new and evolving roles, while increasing access for those who might not otherwise have it.

NPower’s model includes internship experience, which, as Ceccarelli explains, can be a game changer. “There are so many screeners for prospective employees these days, and if someone doesn’t have a traditional background, it can be difficult to get past those,” she said. “But, if someone has the chance to go through an internship, build relationships, and find a mentor, it’s far easier for a hiring manager to see the technical acumen and value someone offers, beyond whatever their background might be.”

So much of these upskilling efforts and initiatives depend upon finding and fostering a new generation of talent with interest and acumen in both finance and technology. As Aishia Snider, US Capital Market Sales Director at Microsoft, explained, the issue, at its core, is simple. “When you think about what upskilling is, and what the tech skills gap really is,” she said, “it’s all about being able to understand the data that runs through any and every device we use today. This is the time to begin educating people on how to understand data by teaching them the science and analysis behind it. With that comes insight.”

Given the fast pace of technology and the evolution of the necessary skills, creating and maintaining an active pipeline of STEM-minded individuals is essential for organizations to remain competitive. Companies need to be consistently asking what more they can do and anticipating what the next challenge to solve for might be.

During the panel discussion, a study conducted by Harvard and the Department of Labor was mentioned, recognizing the value of a broader skill set. The study called out elements like problem solving and social communication, as well as tech and engineering, which brings up an important point. Ultimately, STEM education and upskilling come down to the ability to solve problems, whatever they may be. This importance of interpersonal, as well as cognitive, skills needs to be recognized early in a person’s career, and throughout.

Robust STEM education and awareness have implications beyond just a change the workforce; the subsequent diversity and innovation overflow into better communication between teams, can encourage diversity, and bring down barriers between engineering and other disciplines. All of this is needed as financial technology companies grow and evolve.