Top talent, by definition, isn’t common. It’s more the exception than the norm.
For Frederick science and technology employers, that reality can be challenging. In technical industries, especially, talent can be hard to find. After all, there are certain non-negotiable needs that employers have in terms of staffing.
Based on workforce size, expected growth, and expected employee churn, for example, an employer may need 10 new biotech engineers each year. Or, they may need 15 drug discovery researchers. Or 5 software developers.
Those positions, by their nature, require candidates with high level skills – those roles aren’t easy to fill. The numbers may vary, but the need for top talent doesn’t.
Filling those roles with skilled employees is absolutely essential. It’s also consistently difficult.
In honesty, that difficulty is enhanced a bit in Frederick. Now, this isn’t to say that Frederick’s science and technology landscape isn’t bright and brimming with potential – it is. But the fact remains that, in terms of sheer name recognition, Frederick as a location doesn’t rank alongside Silicon Valley, or, closer to home, DC. Obviously, it’s not as populated, either.
And those factors can affect the volume of qualified occupants from which local science and technology employers can choose.
Put simply: local employers looking for top science and technology talent have a scarcity problem.
They need more and better candidates. So, what can be done about it?
Actively Acquire Top Talent
This discussion will focus more on how to actively acquire top talent than on how to craft a position and culture that will draw top talent. Both components are integral to acquiring and keeping top talent; our purposes here are more aligned with the former.
So, how can you actively acquire top talent and find the candidates that are qualified?
1. Take a Pipeline Approach
This is an organizational approach that’s essential in cultivating consistent sources of skilled science and technology talent.
Talent acquisition isn’t a one-off endeavor – filling the latest position of need doesn’t mean an organization won’t require future talent.
It’s logical, yes, but urgency often wins the day; when a position needs to be filled, the search commences in earnest. Until the need is obvious, talent acquisition is relegated to the backburner.
Conversely, a pipeline approach takes into account the inevitability of future need and cultivates a network of talent with that in mind. Using a pipeline approach, when future needs come to fruition, there’s talent waiting in the wings.
In principle, it’s like budgeting – if you plan for expected expenses, you’ll be prepared when it’s time to pay. If you don’t, you’ll be left scrambling in the moment.
2. Cultivate Relationships with Higher Education Institutions
Here’s where the rubber meets the road: it’s one thing to take a pipeline approach – to understand the importance of planning for future talent needs. It’s another to fill the pipeline consistently.
Doing that means cultivating relationships with consistent producers of talent. Again, finding one qualified biotech engineer is great; having a consistent influx of bioengineering talent is better. Relationships with higher education institutions can give employers consistent access to qualified candidates, year after year.
Because higher education institutions are hotbeds for top talent. Students most obviously are sources of future employees, but so are post-doctoral fellows and non-tenured faculty, as well as the wealth of contacts they have outside the institution. So establishing those relationships, especially through collaborative projects, provides exposure and exchange that often results in rich sources of new talent.
Say, for example, a biotech employer develops a relationship with a university offering a master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. Even if there are only 20 graduates from that program each year, that’s a consistent pool of skilled talent worth tapping into – and developing that relationship makes finding talent easier. Because, after all, Biomedical Engineers don’t grow on trees; they grow in university labs.
This is the model that science and technology hubs have thrived upon: utilizing a natural talent pipeline from higher education institutions to employers. This consistent approach allows industry to flourish.
It’s how to fill a pipeline with more and better candidates.
3. Work with CREST
If employers take a pipeline approach with relationships with higher institutions, the next question is: how do those relationships happen?
That’s where we come in.
At CREST, our mission is to provide a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-focused research and education hub in Frederick that enhances access to graduate education institutions and facilitates research partnerships that drive economic development.
Part of that means building bridges between Frederick employers and higher education institutions. We have relationships with regional higher education research institutions, and proven experience in facilitating talent development.
If your organization has talent needs, our role is to facilitate the connections to help you meet them. Do you have internship program aspirations? Workforce education needs? Are there projects that would benefit from collaborating with an academic partner?
Do you need more and better candidates?
Let us help. Get in touch to discuss your talent needs.
Because top talent isn’t common, and in the science and technology sectors, it’s even tougher to find. But we believe that the future of Frederick’s STEM scene is bright. And, by working together, local organizations and regional educational research institutions can develop and launch the top talent that will propel Frederick forward.