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Rebecca Lucore from Bayer Answers Questions About the STEM Shortage

Last week, we began a discussion on the shortage in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs, presented in Bayer’s 16 Facts of Science Education survey. This week, we were lucky enough to get a representative of Bayer to follow up with some additional depth about the situation.

Who Is Rebecca L. Lucore?

rebeccalucore Rebecca L. Lucore joined Bayer Corporation in 1994 and currently serves as Chief of Staff at Bayer MaterialScience (BMS) LLC. She is responsible for managing and supporting organizational projects, some including change management; talent management; and executive and employee engagement.

Ms. Lucore was named one of the 100 Women Leaders in STEM in 2012 by STEMconnector™, one of the Top 25 Women in Business by the Pittsburgh Business Times in 2010, and received Duquesne University’s Excellence in Communication Ethics Alumni Award in 2008.

In the Pittsburgh region, she serves as an Advisory Board member of the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University, where she also co-chairs the Center’s 74% Project which examines women and leadership issues in the nonprofit sector.

She also serves on the executive committee for the United Way of Allegheny County Women’s Leadership Council.  Nationally, she serves on the board of directors for One Young World Inc.

Our Interview with Rebecca on the STEM shortage

Q. Could you go into more details about how the STEM shortage affects non-tech businesses, small businesses in particular?

As for small businesses, we only talked to Fortune 1000 companies in this survey, so we really can’t say. However, that doesn’t mean we won’t talk to smaller employers in a future survey. So stay tuned.

But to address your question about how the STEM shortage affects non-STEM companies, the Fortune 1000 talent recruiters speak loudly that today and in the future, those with two- and four-year STEM degrees will be “as or more” in demand by employers for jobs that are traditionally considered non-STEM than their counterparts with non-STEM degrees.

In addition, the talent recruiters believe that more STEM jobs are being created at their companies than non-STEM jobs. Again this was true for STEM companies and non-STEM companies alike. The result of all this is that there is fierce competition for qualified STEM degree candidates, particularly at the four-year degree level.

Q. What would you say to people who believe this shortage doesn’t exist?

We are aware of the arguments on both sides of the STEM workforce shortage debate.

But it’s important to listen to these talent recruiters.  They’re not academics or economists looking at data points.

They’re people on the front lines whose job it is to assess company workforce needs and go out into the field to find and recruit those workers.  They provide a real-world perspective to the supply-demand debate.

Our survey shows that the hotly debated STEM workforce shortage turns out to be a reality for many U.S. companies today, both STEM and non-STEM alike.

Q. Is there a way that professional women who have STEM skills, particularly women business owners, can take advantage of the current STEM shortage?

While this is not something that the survey covered, there is a National Science Foundation program that has come to our attention recently that gives STEM professionals the training to become entrepreneurs… to be able to take their research or product and be able to bring it to market themselves.

Also, given the tremendous demand for STEM skills that the talent recruiters are seeing now and predict in the near future, it means that there is plenty of opportunity out there.

Q. Do you know of any initiatives that exist to address the STEM shortage? 

Bayer definitely knows of initiatives… we’ve created them to help us recruit, develop and manage the company’s two- and four-year STEM degree worker pipeline.  Bayer, like other employers, needed to create programs to help with issues filling open, unfilled STEM jobs, particularly manufacturing positions.

Q. That sounds interesting. Could you give us an example? Maybe there are things other business owners can learn from what you’ve done at Bayer. 

Here is one case in point.  At Bayer MaterialScience’s plant at Baytown, Texas, we would receive about 2,000 applicants for 20 to 30 jobs a decade ago.  Today, we get about 250 applicants. Filtering through those applicants leaves us with about 40 true candidates. Consequently, we have had positions vacant for up to 9 months.

So we’ve had to solve the problem ourselves by creating the Baytown Manufacturing Internship Program with local community colleges to train full-time process technology operators for the plant.  We created the program with the East Harris County Manufacturers Association.  It involves partnerships with Lee College, San Jacinto College, Alvin Community College, Houston Community College and the College of the Mainland.

Since it launched in 2011, we have had 54 Production Technician Internship Positions.  Going forward we would expect to see 11 – 20 per year.

To date, we’ve had a 90 percent intern to hire rate.

Another example is in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Since 1993, Bayer with the City of Berkeley created Biotech Partners (known then as Berkeley Biotechnology Education Inc.), an innovative school-to-work program for at-risk high school students in Berkeley.   It combines classroom studies and lab practice with paid internships.

Each year, Biotech Partners works with approximately 130 young people at Berkeley High School, Oakland Technical High School and the Peralta Community College District.

Since 1993, Biotech Partners has placed more than 1,000 youth in internships and co-op job training positions at Bayer, Novartis AG, Joint Genome Institute/U.S. Department of Energy, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center and the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), among others.

In the last eight years, 100 percent of the students who completed the program graduated high school and 100 percent of students completing the high school program enroll in post-secondary education.

Usually within 30 days of receiving their certification, BP graduates are employed in industry.  Since the program’s inception, Bayer has provided 305 summer high school internships (out of 764), 153 year-round community college internships (out of 287) and has hired some 50 BP graduates.

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