News of layoffs has rocked the U.S. beyond the HR industry. Economic decline has touched the housing and media industries, as well as Silicon Valley.
Notably, Amazon has planned layoffs, and has delayed and even revoked job offers. This sparks questions not only regarding the state of the tech industry, but also: What does the future of work look like for recent college graduates in STEM?
HR Dive did a temperature check and spoke to four early-in-career talent specialists about the future of work in tech industries and how HR professionals can support young talent therein.
Keisha Stephenson Taylor (she/her), senior director of alumni and post-secondary engagement at NAF
As someone who provides job access and networking opportunities to young talent, Keisha Stephenson Taylor told HR Dive she sees a shift in the demands of internship readiness.
“What we're seeing is that a lot of skills necessary for the workforce are what we would probably call ‘soft skills.’ They've been really essential to what we feel strengthens a candidate for multiple types of employment,” Taylor said.
These skills include collaboration and communication, problem-solving and success-planning, and the ability to be self-directed. Beyond cultivating what NAF refers to as “future-ready skills,” HR pros can ultimately keep providing learning and development opportunities, Taylor said.
Talent professionals should emphasize the importance of teamwork and team dynamics, critical thinking and mindfulness of “inclusive and equitable practices,” she said. HR teams should provide leadership opportunities “even for the most junior staff,” Taylor added.
Clare Bertrand (she/they), Jobs for the Future’s senior director of career exploration, decision-making and navigation and JFF’s Lifelong Learning Unit
From Clare Bertrand’s perspective, the economy has felt “really fragile” for about a decade. Bull and bear markets come with the territory — but, Bertrand told HR Dive, “I feel like there's just been a continuous instability, especially since the pandemic.” And while layoffs, Silicon Valley or otherwise, don’t bode well for the rest of the U.S., Bertrand wants to broaden the scope of job market peril conversations.
“Not everyone in the United States is employed by Big Tech, but we're all going to feel the squeeze. Most of the time young adults are concentrated in low-paying occupations and in fields such as food service and retail,” they told HR Dive. Young talent in tech includes graduates with a four-year computer science degree, as well as people enrolled in coding programs or other forms of short-term credentialing.
Young tech talent pools also include workers who are dually enrolled or going to school part-time, who are “more likely to be concentrated in those lower paying occupations.”
Those low-wage jobs won’t disappear, Bertrand explained. “But that means that there's a lack of advancement. And also, as you know, inflation increases and wages kind of stay the same,” she said, underscoring this phenomenon’s impact on long-term wage growth for young talent.
Tami Forman (she/her), executive director of Path Forward
The biggest trend affecting the post-grad job search experience is the transition to remote and hybrid work, Tami Forman told HR Dive via email. “It certainly opens more opportunities when you can work from anywhere. But it can be tough to build early career skills from home,” she said.
“HR professionals should be mindful of creating great onboarding experiences and be intentional about creating mentorship opportunities, both virtually and, where applicable, in person,” she continued. “Just bringing young workers into an office if no one else is there isn't going to help.” Executives should therefore be purposeful in creating “the right environment” for young talent to thrive, she said.
Regarding news of companies like Amazon that have delayed new hire starting dates and have rescinded job offers, Forman said she empathizes with student job-seekers. “As someone who graduated into a bad job market in the 1990s, I get it. It's a bummer and adds stress to an already-stressful situation,” she said.
Alba Martinez (she/her), JFF’s young adult voice and engagement intern; junior at Dickinson College
Alba Martinez, Bertrand’s colleague who also hopped on a call with HR Dive, gave both her professional and personal perspective on the future of work for young grads. Her reminder to young talent — that talent acquisition teams can also remember to pass on — is just because a jobseeker graduated with a degree in a certain subject does not mean they’re bound to a job in that industry. “At the end of the day, a lot of people who majored in something do not go into that field, she said”
Like Taylor, Martinez emphasized the value of transferable skills. “This past semester, actually, I planned and hosted two virtual panels for the educational honor society I'm part of, and we brought in a lot of Educational Studies alums who graduated from Dickinson within the past 10 years. They're in health; they're in tech. They're in finance,” she said. “It just really goes to show how it's about the kind of skills you pick up.”
Correction: In a previous version of this article, Clare Bertrand’s name was misspelled.