Press Release

Close the Skills Gap: STEM to STEAM

Equipping the future STEM workforce with 21st century competencies that hiring managers are looking for today

Singapore, 28 July 2022 – The top five 21st century competencies hiring managers in the STEM industry are looking for in fresh graduates are – Problem Solving, Communication, Collaboration, Adaptability and Critical Thinking – and students show high awareness of these skills needed for career success.


In the latest research ‘Close the Skills Gap: STEM to STEAM’ by United Women Singapore (UWS), supported by STMicroelectronics, 400 female students in STEM areas of study and over 100 hiring managers highlighted the importance of 21st century competencies in order to stand out when applying in today’s job market.


The 21st century competencies were defined for the purpose of this research as seventeen fundamental skills needed to navigate fast changing times, and typically accrued as benefits from an arts education. These include Critical Thinking, Communication, Innovation, Problem Solving, Adaptability and Self-Confidence among others. In the face of evolving expectations of our workforce, these 21st century competencies are deemed imperative in succeeding in a STEM career.


The hiring managers interviewed prioritise 21st century competencies over other aspects such as technical knowledge or team fit while making the hiring decision, irrespective of the candidate’s experience. Students seemed generally well aware of the importance of 21st century competencies to succeed in the STEM industry. But despite this understanding, the students rated themselves low in most of the skills, especially in Self-Confidence and Negotiation skills. Eighty percent of female students recognise that Self-Confidence is important for a successful career, but only one in two female students reported that they feel that they possess Self-Confidence and Negotiation skills.


The confidence gap in females is consistent with the findings of UWS’ earlier research study titled ‘The STEM Gender Gap: Perceptions of girls towards STEM fields and careers’ conducted in 2021, where more young female students felt they are not qualified enough for a job in a STEM field, compared to their male counterparts.


Another significant insight from the latest research also sheds light on the gaps in these competencies highlighted by the hiring manager. Out of the top four competencies that hiring managers look for in interviews – Problem Solving, Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking – 40% of hiring managers reported these skills lacking in young candidates during the hiring process.


“Our research and conversations with girls and young women have repeatedly pointed to the confidence gap in girls especially in the STEM field. For girls, it is not a matter of competence but confidence. Empowering students who are embarking on a career in the STEM industry by equipping them with future-ready skill sets and 21st century competencies is not just the responsibility of the education system, but also other stakeholders.” said Georgette Tan, President of United Women Singapore.


Among other findings, female students were keen to equip themselves with job readiness skills such as interview skills, cover letter and resume writing in the next 2-5 years. The research also showed that 60% of hiring managers believe internship experience can help fresh graduates to prepare for a STEM-related job. With female students rating themselves highly in Adaptability, these new age talents will develop new skills more quickly and be open to lifelong learning to adapt to challenges and change in the future workforce.


“Parents, the community, civil society and the private sector are all part of the ecosystem to bridge the skills gap in the future workforce through cultivating opportunities like internships and mentorship programmes to nurture young talent and boost the confidence of young women” Georgette Tan adds.


Foo Kuo Yang, Human Resource Director for STMicroelectronics in Singapore commented that, “The ability to be agile and constantly acquire new skills in a fast-changing landscape are essential complements to pure technical skills,”


“ST, together with our partners like UWS, are committed in our efforts to continuously bridge the skills gaps to boost the confidence of female students in pursuing meaningful STEM-related careers.”


To launch the research findings, a panel discussion will be held at Shangri-La Singapore on 28 July 2022. The panel, moderated by Georgette Tan, will feature Dr Lilian Koh, Founder and CEO of FinTech Academy, Foo Kuo Yang, Human Resource Director Front-end Manufacturing for STMicroelectronics in Singapore, and Krystal Lim, Champion for Girls & Women in STEM.


Girls2Pioneers, UWS’s flagship initiative, has been successfully running since 2014, focusing on empowering girls with STEM skills. However, it is imperative to arm students with the right skills to adapt and cope with the post-pandemic job market characterised by change and uncertainty. Introducing 21st century skills into the STEM curriculum is necessary to encourage students to think critically and approach real-world problems with creative solutions.


 The full research will be available on 28 July at


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About United Women Singapore

United Women Singapore (UWS) is a local non-profit organisation with Institution of Public Character (IPC) status. It advances women’s empowerment and gender equality and builds a pipeline of women leaders and influencers in Singapore. The organisation works towards narrowing the gender equality gap through education and raising awareness and advocacy on issues such as anti-violence and women’s empowerment, with the support of key stakeholders including corporate partners, government agencies, academia, the diplomatic community, non-profit and community groups and the wider community.


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Media Contact:

Ellie Ang

Digital Engagement & Communications, Senior Associate

United Women Singapore

+65 9637 4765