Finding talent to fill occupations for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers is a persistent challenge for UK businesses, particularly in their local area.

The majority (58%) of companies have compromised on a hire because they couldn’t find quality STEM talent in the local area, with 41% saying they have had to do this more than once, according to new research by Upwork.

Despite having to compromise, one-third (33%) of UK businesses still restrict their search for talent beyond their local area, even though 70% of hiring decision makers saying it’s important to their business to be able to find the professionals with the STEM skills they need.

The research highlighted how this is problematic given the mismatch between where the work and workers are. The findings reveal that Amazon Web Services is one of the most in-demand STEM skills for businesses in the South West of the UK, yet there are twice as many professionals with this skill in Scotland than in the South West - 8% compared to 4% respectively.

Rich Pearson, senior vice president of marketing at Upwork said: “The battle for STEM talent is fierce enough on its own; when businesses limit the area in which they search for talent, it only exacerbates the problem.

“More and more businesses are starting to see that they have a viable option that closes that physical gap by expanding their search beyond their four walls; whether a London-based business is working with a data scientist in Winchester or Kiev, they’re able to get quality talent in the door more quickly and get more done as a result.”

When businesses are unable to find the STEM skills they need, business suffers in many ways. The top impacts hiring decision makers reported include, not being able to innovate quickly (27%), being less productive (29%) and being unable to grow as fast (29%).

Other reasons cited were a slower profit increase, not being able to produce products or services as quickly and being unable to attract the same level of talent.

To alleviate the pain caused by the STEM skills gap, some UK businesses are exploring new routes to access the skills they need to help their businesses thrive. Around one-third (37%) have hired STEM freelance talent online.

Sotiris Eigemy, Paradox SEO said: “STEM skills are hugely important for our business growth. We need them to innovate and meet the demands of our growing customer base. The decision to hire talent beyond a 30 or 40 mile radius of our head office was a turning point.

“We now hire workers with specialist STEM skills from multiple locations – be it the next county or another country. This approach has enabled us to seek out the very best talent in the market.

He added: “Working with people remotely has required us to communicate with the team in a different way but it’s been a positive experience – we’ve seen an overall improvement in staff morale and productivity at the same time.”

The Top 10 in-demand specialist STEM skills are:

  1. 3D Modelling
  2. JavaScript Development
  3. Amazon Web Services
  4. C++ Development
  5. WordPress Development
  6. HTML5 Development
  7. SQL
  8. jQuery Development
  9. Mobile App Development
  10. Linux System Administration