STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts, and math — is becoming a popular topic of discussion in educational institutions, but there is somewhat of a disconnect between education and the workplace. STEM careers prioritize technical skills, especially in the hiring process, which can make students rightly wonder what the point of additional arts and humanities training is.
In an educational environment, adding the “A” to STEM means students gain vital critical thinking, discourse, writing, and leadership skills, as well as greater understanding of arts and culture. This makes them excellent candidates for leadership and mentorship positions, and key allies in reducing employee churn. But when it comes to job applications, they know that recruiters and algorithms are both looking for mainly technical skills-related keywords.
The value of STEAM educated employees
Employees with a background in the humanities have a ton to offer, even (and especially) in technical roles. STEAM is about much more than learning art; the arts, humanities, and languages teach students about thought, logic, argument, ethics, and many other aspects of humanity. According to Concordia University the STEAM job market in the United States will grow by 14% by 2020, and even employers in highly technical fields are beginning to see its value. The arts give students a grounding set of both soft- and social skills, and arms them with different modes of thinking about the world. However, not everyone is convinced yet, and graduates entering the job market can be hesitant to express these skills in a job search.
If you’re into recruiting leaders, and people who improve the work environment around them, STEAM candidates are highly prized — or should be.
People don’t need to be in leadership roles for their leadership skills to be valuable. There are many different styles of leadership, and some of them don’t require a position of authority to be effective. Transformational leadership, one of the most effective styles, involves lifting up other group members and transforming the work environment to better achieve organizational goals and uplift other employees. Some of the most important characteristics of these types of leaders are emotional intelligence, mediation, and the ability to think in new and transformative ways. These are all skills honed in the study of the arts and humanities.
Another key trait possessed by people who have training in the arts is increased exposure to new and foreign ideas. These are people who have been taught how to learn, and learning is a skill in and of itself. So if you’re looking to hire people who will make learning new things a priority, who seek experiences outside of their comfort zone, and who will respond well to internal uptraining, the answer is STEAM.
If you’re looking for employees that will stick with you, and improve the performance of everyone around them, hire people with additional background in the arts and treat them right.
Attracting STEAM candidates
The trick is convincing students and job seekers that employers see those additional skills as valuable. It’s not enough simply to start looking for those skills. There are new generations of tech workers going through their training that need to be convinced to invest time and energy into the arts, or simply told that those interests are valid to pursue.
This means outreach during college career fairs, on websites, and on job descriptions. Start actively supporting and looking for the “A” skills in candidates by putting them into job posting descriptions. Start highlighting the value of these employees internally and externally, at company events and conferences, and build a culture of support and confidence.
As you build out culture and PR that values soft skills as well as technical skills, it may be necessary to retrain recruiters, interviewers, and adjust any keyword scraping algorithms. Many people groom their resumes specifically for certain keywords they believe companies want to see. A common strategy is to pick out keywords from the job posting into their applications. So changing those keywords is a great start.
In the end, the people you hire create your company culture. A culture infused with not only the skills that come from the arts, but the beauty and soul that comes from communities who are passionate about arts and humanities — that kind of culture sets employees and companies up for long-term success.