The Future of Work for STEM Fields in 2024

People sitting at a long desk working on laptops.

In the ever-evolving domains of science, engineering, and technology, the past year has witnessed a seismic shift in the talent landscape. How can you prepare for the advent of artificial intelligence in talent acquisition, the rise of contract workers, and the pivotal role of diversity, equity, and inclusion in shaping the workforce?

1. AI in recruiting and recruiting automation. 

The use of AI and automation in recruiting will continue to influence and change the hiring market short term this year. 63% of companies are currently investing or have plans to invest in AI solutions for talent acquisition problem solving. Companies are increasingly using generative AI in the recruiting process to help develop job descriptions, candidate communications, and interview questions. Regular AI continues to deliver in other tools such as matching assessments, virtual assistants, and scheduling.  

 By nature, recruiting will always require a human touch. In fact, the time saved by AI today will see STEM recruiters focus on the candidate experience and how candidates match to specific roles. Still, 73% of leaders will closely monitor the use of AI tools for any potential negative effects on their companies. Bottom line, it’s not yet a sure thing, but rather a work in progress.


As the AI landscape continues to change, the human role is evolving more towards collaboration, supervision, and strategic decision-making. Regardless, AI will be part of recruiting moving forward, allowing Human Resources to focus on skill sets at the heart of its work and be more effective. 

 In fact, according to a McKinsey study, back in 2018, only 40% of businesses reported more than 5% of their digital budgets went to AI. In 2022, this grew to over half reporting that level of investment, and 63% said they expect their investment to increase over the next three years. While this is a strong trajectory, there remains a lot to learn about how to use AI effectively. This will require a major paradigm shift in how we approach AI, changing the skillsets required on recruiting teams, as well as the processes they use to augment their capabilities and unlock their full potential. That’s where a workforce expert like Kelly can excel as a partner, since the tech is growing so fast, there will also remain a significant skills gap. You may want to prioritize investment in AI—as well as more STEM talent that’s skilled in disruptive technology. 


2. The impact of economic uncertainty. 

The second trend we’re noticing is how economic uncertainty is increasing the need for contract workers and better retention—driven by a convergence of events, including an election year, changing federal rates, and unemployment remaining low. The Conference Board Leading Economic Index for the US declined last year which can affect plans for business expansion and demand for new hires.  

 For leaders in this climate of economic uncertainty, contract STEM staff or independent contractors can be a cost-effective way to get the skills they need without making a long-term commitment. The rise of online staffing platforms is making it easier than ever to find qualified workers for specific projects. But that means stakeholders must read through numerous resumes, taking their time and focus away from business objectives. Our team of experts helps companies like yours navigate the changing landscape of work, so you can find the right talent for your business while still staying focused on key projects. 

 But economic insecurity and rising costs can give employers leverage as well. In this evolving landscape, making retention a priority has become more key, with STEM employers recognizing the importance of flexible work options, raises, bonuses, benefits, and training. It’s another place where contract STEM workers can help fill your positions, without taking up client budgets or fear of layoffs if a recession is to come later. Kelly offers both contract workers and statementworX managed solutions to keep your projects on track until budgets are available for a full-time workforce. 


3. DEI and empathy remain important. 

Leaders accept that an increasingly diverse workforce fuels innovation, creativity, and higher profits. However, only one in three recruiters currently track the diversity of candidates. And 53% of U.S. workers say diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a key factor when considering a company for employment. A company’s DEI efforts are substantially more important for younger workers, with Gen Z at 77% and Millennials at 63%. 

 Meanwhile, employers are more interested today in younger workers who are new to their STEM fields. They’re looking for new ideas they bring, and in times of fiscal uncertainty, it’s easier to justify bringing on people with entry-level salaries than hiring more experienced, expensive professionals. Gen Zers are ready to enter the workforce in junior-level roles and will expect everything to be virtual and fast-paced. 

 Science, Engineering, and Technology sectors have long recognized the need to adopt DEI objectives, but the push to achieve those objectives is gaining traction. As companies remove degree requirements from their job postings to expand the candidate pool, they’ll open opportunities to traditionally marginalized groups, many of which would also benefit from stronger DEI initiatives. 


4. Find a partner to manage changes in the STEM hiring market. 

In 2024, the job market for specialty professionals is likely to be highly competitive and dynamic, making the services of workforce agencies like Kelly even more valuable. As the expert at hiring experts, we speak your language and can find the right person to fill your jobs. We have a deep understanding of the skills and experience that are most in demand in today’s market. 

 Then we deliver specialized talent quickly because we already have experts in our pipeline. In fact, 35% of our candidates are passive—not found on job boards or resume sites, but only through Kelly Science & Clinical, Engineering, and Technology.


We carefully screen and select candidates so that you’re getting the most qualified workers for your type of business needs. We work with you to develop a staffing solution that meets your budget and timeline. We also keep your costs down by hiring talent that you need on a project basis, so you can save money on your staffing budget. 

 A staffing partner gives you the flexibility to scale. If your business, products, or services are growing, you can quickly add staff by hiring contract workers. If you need to downsize, let the contract end so you aren’t stuck with employees that you can’t afford. Working with an expert like Kelly can also help to shorten hiring time, so you don’t wait months to fill a role when your business needs the right expert now. 

 Failing to adapt to these changing job market trends could result in a loss of top talent, more employee turnover, and lower employee satisfaction. Companies that limit workplace flexibility may experience higher retention costs, which can have other long-term financial implications. 

 Instead, by embracing more flexible and inclusive hiring practices, your company can attract and retain top talent, drive innovation, and achieve long-term success. Kelly can help. We understand the importance of flexible hiring practices and building diverse talent pipelines. Together, we can help you navigate these challenges to create a more inclusive and efficient hiring process that attracts top talent, retains current employees, and drives your business success. 


For more information on how Kelly can support your need for STEM talent, visit our web site . 

As a niche recruitment specialist, Kelly Science & Clinical, Engineering, and Technology is ready to partner with you. We provide a full portfolio of customized talent solutions to complement your business needs that includes contract, contract to hire, direct hire, and managed solutions through statementworX, where we manage an entire team, project, or function according to your requirements. 

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