Expanding the Talent Pipeline to Drive Diversity in STEM

By Peter Gillespie

Senior Vice President of Strategic and Corporate Marketing

Advanced Energy

By Randy Heckman

Chief Technology Officer

Advanced Energy

February 01, 2023


Expanding the Talent Pipeline to Drive Diversity in STEM

From semiconductor and industrial manufacturing to battling climate change and delivering smart cities and advanced medical diagnostics, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – collectively known as STEM – are essential disciplines for advancing innovation and addressing some of the planet’s greatest challenges.

The richer and more diverse the pool of talent from which to recruit STEM candidates, the better it is for the technology industry. Diverse backgrounds lead to different points of view and ideas, which foster innovation and can lead to stronger business results.

However, minority groups are underrepresented in STEM. According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. STEM workforce is almost 90% white and 72% male. According to the U.S. National Science Foundation 2021 report on Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, only 7.45% of full time-engineers identify as black or African American, and only 9.08% of full-time engineers identify as Hispanic or Latino. Compare this to the larger share of total employment across all industries according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (13% for black or African American workers, 18% for Hispanic or Latino workers). Only 9.1% of workers in science and engineering reported having a disability, compared to 10.5% of the working-age population.

This disparity means that some talented individuals are likely being excluded from pursuing interesting, rewarding, and highly satisfying careers in the science and technology sectors. It also means that there is a barrier to new ideas and innovation that naturally comes from having a more diverse and inclusive workforce with many different backgrounds and experiences.

One reason of this underrepresentation is high barriers of entry, including exposure to role models in their personal lives that demonstrate engineering as a viable career pathway. A 2021 study conducted by KLA highlights an example for female engineers. 66% of female engineering students say that the lack of women in STEM Careers is a challenge for them as they consider pursuing a career in engineering. 18% of women in engineering reported that they received discouragements from pursuing a career in the field, compared to only 14% for men. It is a vicious positive feedback loop that results in the underrepresentation of women, persons with disabilities, and racial and ethnic minorities in engineering.

To access more talent, students of various backgrounds need to be attracted, encouraged and inspired to explore opportunities in STEM. One way to do this is by creating a culture where talented people from different backgrounds are welcomed and accepted. Building a bigger talent pipeline comes down to four things:

  1. Widening intake – grow STEM training “funnels”
  2. Reducing leakage – retain students throughout the full pipeline
  3. Increasing talent flow – add more “funnels” into the pipeline
  4. Directing talent flow – create specific industry segment awareness

Industry leaders, including some prominent OEMs, are focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion. There are numerous efforts to expand the STEM talent pipeline and support diverse STEM candidates.

The IEEE Power Electronics Society Women in Engineering, for example, is a network of 36,000 members in over 100 countries dedicated to advance the careers of women in technology. SEMI, the global industry association for the electronics manufacturing and design supply chain, demonstrates the different pathways to a career in STEM through its SEMI Foundation’s High Tech U (HTU) program. 78% of HTU alumni go on to pursue STEM-based college programs, compared to only 22% of the general high school population. More than 40% of the alumni are women and almost 60% are non-white.

Innovation is the lifeblood of Advanced Energy. We have a long history of introducing firsts into precision power applications where our products are used to enrich people’s lives. We have over 1,300 people in engineering, and it’s our diverse backgrounds and collaboration that enable us to drive innovation and future growth for our global customers. We strive to cultivate an environment within AE where all our people love to work and innovate.

In addition, AE works with university partners to help build a bigger talent pipeline that attracts talented candidates of diverse backgrounds. One such program is AE’s STEM Diversity Scholarship, which aims to develop students into workforce-ready professionals. Through the program, we provide academic assistance, mentoring, and hands-on internship experience with Advanced Energy for those facing higher entry barriers. Applicants come from diverse backgrounds and many are first-generation college students. Through this pipeline, we have also offered longer-term employment opportunities with Advanced Energy.

We live in an exciting time where each day, our evolving world creates new opportunities and challenges. In this dynamic landscape, the tech industry’s success depends on a diverse, innovative, and future-ready workforce. While there is increased emphasis on advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM, there is a lot more work to be done.

At Advanced Energy, we recognize that each individual’s diverse background, experiences and unique skill set are fundamental contributors to our success. Our initiatives, including the AE STEM Diversity Scholarship program, aim to further enhance diversity, equity and inclusion in our company and beyond.