June 18, 2019

The Challenges of Workforce Re-training in STEM Fields

Posted by AGU Career Center

There are a plethora of reasons why one might leave the workforce, whether it be to take time off for their families, taking the opportunity to travel, or simply just to take some personal time to themselves. While the reasons for taking time off may be simple, the question of how to re-enter the workforce may not be as straightforward. Returning to the workforce after taking time off can seem an insurmountable feat; one might feel out of touch, under-skilled, or undervalued. This trend, however, has been recognized, and many organizations and legislators have taken notice. Consequently, steps are being made to assist people in such predicaments. The STEM Education Coalition recently hosted a briefing addressing the challenges of workforce retraining in STEM fields. Throughout the briefing, representatives from the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), American Chemical Society (ACS), Maryland House of Delegates, and LinkedIn spoke on the efforts of their various organizations’ in grappling with this issue.

SWE is one such organization that has taken notice of this situation that many people are facing today. Women, especially those who may have left the workforce in order to raise their children, find it challenging to simply fall back into the rhythm of the workflow. With this in mind, SWE has partnered with iRelaunch to create the STEM Re-entry Task Force. This initiative provides those interested with “returnships,” internships that allow those that have prior experience the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with the pace and complexity of the workplace. Certain skills are like a muscle; if you don’t use them often enough, they can become underdeveloped, so being able to have a refresher in a safe environment is crucial to both immediate and long-term success. Additionally, reintroducing women that already have experience into the workforce increases the pipeline of women into the STEM sector.

In the state of Maryland, this trend has encouraged legislators to act. State politicians created a variety of programs that those looking to re-enter the workforce can take advantage of. One such program is the Maryland Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) program. Through this state funded program, Maryland partners with businesses in key economic sectors and through this partnership comes the goal of meeting the workforce demands needed in each sector. Job training, skill development, and academic preparedness are all factors that arise from this partnership, sustaining the growth of jobs in all classes. Another such step Maryland has taken was through the creation of the More Jobs for Maryland Act. This program is specifically for businesses that are located within the state of Maryland and serves to provide incentives to them for expanding or locating in the state. It also allocates funds specifically for job training programs to help bolster Maryland’s workforce.

LinkedIn has taken a different approach that reflects how online retraining might look for the workforce of the future. The company has been mapping global workforce trends and this information has been used to inform policymakers and industry officials what the skills of the future are, how education can boost certain skills, and on the importance of aligning skills with market demands. In order to help solve the issue of accessibility to skill building mechanisms, LinkedIn has created LinkedIn Learning: an online learning platform that allows anyone to enroll in courses to help them become more marketable in the workforce. This combination of efforts has made LinkedIn a real powerhouse for career development advice and resources.

What’s more, the American Geophysical Union has a series of online career resources for unemployed earth and space scientists. These resources include Mentoring365— an online mentoring forum for all AGU members, an online job board and careers webpage, and blogs offering career advice. AGU also provides in-person career guidance at its Fall Meeting. Mentoring365 Live! provides meeting attendees with advice on transitioning jobs and career preparation. Additionally, in the Career Center at Fall Meeting, AGU staff provide individualized resume and CV reviews, mock interviews and tips to prepare for future interviews, job search strategies, goal-setting workshops, and more. The Career Center also has a Recruiters Row, where you can meet with prospective employers, network with experts from different industries, and learn crucial skills that will be useful in their job search. Similarly, ACS has a career services site in which they provide members with career guidance through job boards, personal career consulting, and workshops.

No matter one’s reason for leaving the workforce, there are many resources that can help guide you back to work and give you the confidence boost that is sometimes needed to get you back into the field. With corporations and legislators currently taking steps to assist you, reassimilation into the workforce is becoming a more feasible endeavor.


Julia Emilie Jeanty and Chinonso Uzowihe, Talent Pool Interns, American Geophysical Union.