Today’s UKCES report showing that 43% of vacancies in STEM roles are hard to fill due to a shortage of applicants with the required skills will be met with concern across industry and government.
The value of careers in the STEM industries is often misunderstood by young people, which has often allowed other sectors to steal the most enquiring and creative minds.
Addressing these misconceptions directly is a real opportunity for us as business people and entrepreneurs.
Businesses need to open their doors to young people and help them understand the eclectic and exciting range of STEM careers available to them through studying Maths and Physics to ensure they have the talent pipeline they need for the future.
STEM careers are available in wide and varied roles across all industries, from traditional sectors like R&D to emerging roles in fashion and media. The research highlights that almost half (46%) of STEM graduates working in innovative firms in manufacturing and knowledge-intensive business service industries have a degree in a STEM subject.
This needs to be at the heart of our response to the problem.
STEM careers are some of the most exciting in the country, but can also be difficult to bring-to-life for young people. Compelling messages, images and first-hand experiences need to be our first response to truly engage and inspire the next generation.
And this is where I believe the Your Life campaign can make a real impact.
Your Life is an industry-led and Government-backed campaign, which aims to show the dynamic career opportunities unlocked by studying science and Maths, and thereby drive uptake of Maths and Physics at A-Level. Girls particularly need more encouragement to take these subjects as negative stereotypes are subtly introduced at an early age.
Your Life complements the amazing work already being done by events and experiences like The Big Bang Fair, The Skills Show and Tomorrow’s Engineers Week which many businesses are involved with.
We want to challenge the barriers to studying STEM subjects through the development of inspiring and thought provoking content which resonates with young people across the channels they engage with.
We are also utilising an ambassador network of remarkable, influential women and men to bring-to-life the exciting opportunities on offer.
But while we can produce much of this content, we all need to work together to rethink our approach to ‘selling STEM’. Challenging out-dated stereotypes and social norms wherever we see them should be the first step.
Best School Trip
We are also asking businesses to work in partnership with us and open their doors to young people, through offering them a unique and memorable school trip, so they can meet your fantastic employees and see STEM in action.
Maths and Physics subjects are vital to providing a springboard from which young people can excel – through many different careers routes – and we must do much more to raise awareness of the practical and exciting possibilities studying these subjects can provide.
We should view the UKCES report as a huge chance for us to engage with young people and really open their eyes to the opportunities available to them.
This post gives the views of the author, and does not necessarily reflect the position of UKCES or Commissioners.