Industry Market Trends

What Job Skills Are Most Critical to Start-ups?

May 15, 2013

Like many other businesses, start-ups are hiring, but executives indicate that the most challenging part of filling positions is finding candidates with the right skills, according to a new study by Silicon Valley Bank. A significant amount of executives polled are looking for workers with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills.

Although start-ups are a critical contributor of new job creation and business growth in the U.S., they are struggling to find qualified talent to help them succeed. While 87 percent of start-ups will hire new employees in 2013 (versus 83 percent last year), nine out of 10 say that they are faced with the top challenge of finding workers, according to the most recent Startup Outlook Survey, which polled both U.S. and U.K. execs.

The start-ups most likely to hire this year are in the software, hardware, and cleantech sectors. Although all sectors are looking for employees with STEM skill sets, hardware execs are the most focused on recruiting such talent. The Silicon Valley Bank survey also indicated that STEM-capable workers are the most critical for early-stage companies.

The Skills that Start-up Execs Value the Most

While 17 percent of the start-up execs surveyed say that management, marketing, and other non-STEM skills are the most critical to their business, far more, 40 percent, say that STEM skills are the most critical. Forty-two percent of execs said that both skill sets are critical.

"There is a lot of opportunity to put people to work at start-ups, which is particularly welcome news since jobs in general are recovering slowly. Investments in STEM education and policies that support tech businesses will help people take advantage of jobs, and benefit economic growth overall," said Greg Becker, president and CEO of Silicon Valley Bank, in a statement.

Other than finding recruits with the right skills, start-up execs cite the cost of salaries and benefits and intense competition as the most challenging aspects of finding and retaining talent.