This is the Career Workers Wish They Had Pursued

Would today’s U.S. workforce do things differently in choosing a career path, if they could go back to their late teens? Apparently so, according to recent survey. For employers and HR, that might be a clear sign that upskilling an existing workforce is a good idea.

The Randstad Workmonitor survey for Q2 2019 reports that, if U.S. employees could time travel back to age 18, 68% would focus on a field of study within STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) instead of the path they actually chose. The survey was conducted online among employees aged 18-65 who work at least 24 hours a week but are not self-employed.

Apparently, with our increasingly digital world, U.S. employees are seeing the value of a STEM education and career path over other tracks. At the same time, 60% believe their employer has trouble finding the right workers for these roles today.

“Employees understand the value of STEM talent today; they see their employers on the hunt for that talent and how in demand STEM skills are in the modern workforce,” said Graig Paglieri, group president of Randstad Technologies and Engineering, in a company statement. He added the survey findings don’t necessarily mean people in non-STEM roles have career regret or think their jobs will be taken over by automation and robots.

“However, it’s clear most people think having at least some formal STEM education continues to be valuable in today’s job climate,” Paglieri says, adding that formal education aside, employers who proactively provide upskilling opportunities to their employees will be at a greater advantage long-term than those who don’t.

U.S. employees don’t seem particularly uneasy about digitalization, though they believe more preparation is needed. For example, 79% feel equipped to deal with digitalization in their job. On the flip side, just 27% expect their job to be automated in the next five to 10 years, making Americans seemingly more optimistic than most of their global counterparts (across 33 countries, 35% of workers feel this way).

A majority of employees (62%) say their employers should invest more in developing digital skills, while 49% say they are investing in themselves by delving into topics like artificial intelligence and machine learning because their current employers don’t provide training.

Other employer takeaways from the survey include:

  • Job security is still an important to many workers today. To that end, Randstad suggests starting an open dialogue and educating the current workforce on how much the company or team is embracing digitalization.
  • Identify at-risk workers in advance and empower them to take on new roles or responsibilities that aren’t in danger of becoming obsolete. A lack of career growth also happens to be one of the top reasons that employees choose to leave, so it’s smart to prioritize training and look for upskilling opportunities, according to Randstad.
  • With more STEM job opportunities than job seekers, be proactive in pipelining and flexible in hiring requirements for these roles. Hiring for potential and then investing in workers by training them on a company’s specific software and processes can make a major difference.

“Honing STEM talent from within can be a great way to close the skills gap many organizations feel right now,” Paglieri said.


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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at