You may have noticed a growing number of news stories referencing STEM – an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

It’s reported that greater STEM education is needed in our schools, that our nation is falling behind in STEM related fields, and that an increasingly digital world demands a robust STEM skilled workforce.

The Australian Government’s Office of Chief Scientists recently commissioned a survey to explore employer attitudes to STEM skills and STEM skilled employees. It revealed that an overwhelming number of employers believe those with STEM qualifications are valuable to the workplace, even in positions where STEM qualifications are not a prerequisite. This is perhaps of little wonder considering that STEM skilled employees are perceived as active learners, innovative and effective problem-solvers.

The Business Council of Australia expressed their support of the findings, and added that among the actions required to address the country’s STEM skill shortage, are improving teachers’ capability in this area, embedding STEM in the education curriculum, and ensuring that students are aware of the opportunities available in STEM related careers.

It is extremely encouraging to see the considerable attention being paid to improving the STEM literacy of our future generations. But what can CEOs do to address the issue of appropriately skilled employees in their own companies right now?

What CEOs need to know about upskilling

Upskilling your existing employees to address STEM skill deficiencies is beneficial on several levels — you’ll be tapping into a team that you already know, that knows your business and has proven their value to the company. Yet the path to upskilling has changed dramatically since the days of static, time-consuming and disruptive off-site workshops and training sessions. To better understand how the modern workforce expects to learn, consider the following:

  • Learning anytime, anywhere and on any device: The modern employee craves immediate access to information so they can resolve work-related problems when they need to – whether on the job or on the move – and on a device of their choosing. From our research we know that more than 70% of Pluralsight users in business accounts engage in courses outside of working hours in order to expand and brush up on their technology skills, so there is high demand for upskilling outside of the working day.
  • Up-to-the minute information and solutions: Nowadays workers want up-to-date dynamic content. They want it in a searchable format and are inclined to make use of short, bite-sized pieces of content.
  • Learning from everyone: Modern learners want to gain knowledge from diverse specialists as well as from others. They also want to share resources, ideas, experiences and thinking.

Largely in response to this shift in learning expectations, online learning has become an increasingly popular way for businesses to offer their employees an efficient, cost-effective and satisfying path to upskilling.

Online learning helps employees save time, discover more effective processes, be more productive, increase their learning retention and increase their sense of collaboration and community.

Introducing online learning into your company

With the traditional top-down approach to learning now flipped on its head, CEOs should focus their efforts on developing an environment that encourages and rewards learning. If the onus is on employees to seek out ways to stay up to speed, then the challenge for leaders is to support them in their learning process and recognise that learning is itself a key part of the job.

Once you’ve decided to introduce online learning into your workplace, you need to consider the following points to ensure you’ve chosen the right solution:

  • Does the content meet the needs of your employees?
  • Is the content easy to navigate?
  • Is it up to date? How often is it reviewed and updated?
  • Has it been developed by experts in the field?
  • Is the content varied enough to serve all skill levels?
  • What support is available?

Offering your employees opportunities for continuous learning not only helps your organisation to address the STEM skills gap, but also enables it to become more nimble when confronted with the next wave of workforce changes.