As part of his statement on the 15th March 2023, the Chancellor pledged almost £3.5 billion to support the Government’s ambitions to make the UK a scientific and technologic superpower. STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) jobs are some of the most in-demand and financially rewarding out there but the volume of job vacancies far exceeds the number of qualified candidates to fill the positions, so how can the UK meet its objective by attracting talent to engineering and technology careers?
Why don’t people choose STEM careers?
It starts early and more traditional teaching methods for STEM subjects have failed to really make the link between them and the perceived “cool” careers and applications for the knowledge. Hands on learning and practical experience can change the perception of what an engineer or a scientist is.
Another factor that prevents people from pursuing STEM careers is the perception that these fields are only for those who excel in maths and science. This misconception can be particularly harmful to students who may not have had access to high-quality STEM education early on. Promoting accessibility to careers by showcasing STEM professionals who may have come through a less traditional route into science and technology careers would be helpful here.
One of the significant barriers to entry into STEM careers is the perceived lack of diversity and representation in these fields and this needs to be addressed. Highlighting the accomplishments of diverse STEM professionals and providing mentorship and networking opportunities is useful, but there needs to be investment to support programs that encourage under-represented groups to pursue STEM careers, such as apprenticeships, scholarships and workshops.
One example of a successful initiative to attract talent to STEM fields is the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. This program provides undergraduate students with opportunities to participate in research projects in various STEM fields and has been successful in attracting a diverse group of students to STEM fields and providing them with valuable research experience.
Brexit and STEM skills
In its November 2022 report, the Centre for European Reform reported that Brexit has limited the UK’s access to skilled European workers in the science, technology, engineering, and medicine (STEM) fields. The government has sought to mitigate this problem with new liberalisation of the immigration system but their analysis suggests that this has not made up for the termination of EU free movement to the UK.
The report also shows that whilst a relatively high proportion of UK R&D funding goes into universities, of which many in Britain are world-class, it is failing to translate success in academic science into innovation and productivity growth in the private sector. The report claims that Brexit has exacerbated this problem, because most firms prefer to commercialise technologies in countries that have a larger market, and the UK’s withdrawal from the single market has put off investors who perceive added hurdles to trading with the EU.
What can we do?
Finally, it is essential to promote the value of STEM careers and the impact that STEM professionals have on society. In recent years with COVID we have seen that STEM professionals play a critical role in solving some of the world’s most pressing problems, from healthcare to climate change issues. We must do more to highlight the meaningful work that STEM professionals do and showcase the impact of their contributions.
Attracting more talent to STEM fields requires a multifaceted approach. We need to promote diversity and representation, change perceptions of STEM careers, improve STEM education and training and highlight the impact that STEM professionals have on society. In doing so, we increase the chance of ensuring that our workforce is prepared to tackle the challenges of the 21st century and beyond!
Jonathan Lee and STEM careers
At Jonathan Lee we take great pride in our partnerships with schools, universities and industry memberships, we see a great desire across our customer base to tackle these issues and welcome any opportunity to discuss proactive measures at any opportunity.
Please contact me on 01384 446115 / email@example.com if you’d like to discuss STEM careers in more detail.
More on STEM Careers
Read our blog Equipping Children with the Skills for Tomorrow