Some tech entrepreneurs may have goals that extend beyond the actual business and include encouraging the next generation of potential STEM specialists and startups. Among other benefits, this can help ensure that you continue to have a wide talent pool to draw on. Don’t assume that because you lack the funds to set up a scholarship or similar program that there isn’t still plenty that you can do. The tips below are all ways that you personally or your business can get younger people engaged in STEM and, potentially, in startups themselves.
Becoming a mentor to a talented young person, particularly one who might not have other adults in their life who are interested in or encouraging toward STEM, is an excellent way that you as an individual can make a difference. As a mentor, your role may vary based on the rapport you have with the individual and their set of needs, but in general, you should talk to them about what you do, encourage them to ask questions and make suggestions without trying to direct their life.
However, there might also be situations in which you get significantly more involved. If they are applying for a private student loan to study a STEM topic, you could cosign on the loan. This can help the student get approval. While this means taking on significant responsibility since you will be responsible for the repayment on the loan if the student doesn’t repay it, it is also a way to make a real difference. You could also set up a mentoring program through your startup, pairing interested employees with STEM students at local high schools or colleges.
Offering internships is an excellent way to get students interested in tech startups and entrepreneurships, but if you only offer unpaid internships, you limit the pool of students who will be able to take advantage of them. In fact, you’ll probably only attract those who would have gone into STEM in the first place. A paid internship expands the pool to students who need to earn money over the summer. In addition, try to make the experience worthwhile for the individual. Too often, companies give interns tasks such as making photocopies or filing. While this can acclimate them to general office culture, giving them the opportunity to take part in engaging projects is a better way to get them excited about STEM.
Think about ways that you can reach out into the local community to promote STEM careers. You or your employees could do talks at schools. This can also be an opportunity for you and your staff to develop communication and training skills. You could also invite students to do informational interviews with you and your staff or shadow people for a day at work. If you have employees who are not within the traditional STEM demographic, such as women, their visibility at these events can be encouraging to others. These are low-cost initiatives that do not take up an inordinate amount of time, but if you do have more time and money, you could plan larger outreach events.
This is an important adjunct to reaching out to younger generations, especially since some or most of your employees might be fresh out of school themselves. In addition, since good employees are always looking to expand their skill set, a robust training program can encourage high-quality candidates to work for you. There are several online learning platforms and opportunities that can deliver this training if you can’t do it in-house.
To encourage others to enter your industry, make sure working conditions at your startup are desirable. This means not just competitive pay and the abovementioned training but an atmosphere that makes people want to work there. One big part of this is giving others the opportunity to thrive, listening to their ideas and putting them in motion if they are good ones. Be sure to credit them for these ideas as well.