Analyzing 2020 Unemployment and STEM Job Trends

Tech Scholars

In December 2020, Steve Lucas, CEO of iCIMS, joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the November 2020 jobs report for the United States. Nationally, 245,000 jobs were reinstated back into the economy, and the intent to hire was looking up. However, the number of jobs created was slightly lower than what analysts expected, and the unemployment rate was reported to be at 6.7%, with 10.7 million Americans still unemployed. 

Since the surge of unemployment in the country, there has been a very asymmetric recovery among job fields. The retail industry is still struggling, and the hospitality and transportation industries also continue to meet challenges. However, technology, healthcare and manufacturing fields are seeing sustained job growth. Because of this, Lucas predicted a change in the job market. He noted that, as the economy recovers, there will be an increased demand for those with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) training, and massive job retraining programs will be required, especially for nontraditional workers.

While things may be looking up for some Americans on the job front, some communities were disproportionately hit by job losses in 2020. Unemployment among African Americans in November 2020 was 10.3%, while unemployment among the Hispanic community was reported to be 8.4%. To counter that problem, Lucas urged diverse hiring. “The reality is there’s plenty of talent in communities of color, certainly, and beyond,” stated Lucas. Executives in corporate America should create a diversity plan to bring jobs into disproportionately affected communities, which may include partnering with historically Black colleges and universities. 

Lucas suggested that employers should train members of minority communities for the jobs and fields that are growing, such as in STEM. “We just need to provide the training, and we need to provide the opportunity. It’s achievable,” he said. It is not a moment or a one-time trend, Lucas noted. Rather, it is a movement, and companies need to commit to hiring and training for long-term employment. 

Robert F. Smith Expands STEM Job Training for African Americans

While expanding STEM job training and opportunities for African Americans is a new concept for many U.S. employers, it has been a top priority for Robert F. Smith. In 2017, Smith started the Robert Frederick Smith Tech Scholars Program at Cornell University, Smith’s alma mater. The program offers financial assistance to African American and female high school seniors looking to pursue an undergraduate degree at Cornell in a STEM field. At the end of the program, they are invited to participate in a one-year technical master’s degree at Cornell Tech in New York City. 

Furthermore, in conjunction with Fund II Foundation, in which Smith is the founding director and President, Smith continues to support internX, a paid internship program that matches students of color to internship opportunities in numerous fields, including STEM. The foundation, with the support of Smith, also launched the Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars Program, which provides scholarships, internships, mentoring and other tools to help African Americans pursue STEM degrees and careers. Due in part to these philanthropic efforts, Smith won the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2019. 

Learn more about Robert F. Smith’s efforts to improve workforce diversity and STEM education