The Confederation of British Industry and Education Development International plc have recently published their 2010 Education and Skills survey. The report claims that the recession has further intensified the demand for those with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) skills and as a result “the new government must make encouraging more young people to study science-related subjects a top priority.”
Statistics from the report showed 45% of the employers surveyed were concerned they would not fill the posts in their organisation that require graduate or higher level STEM qualifications and as result the demand for these qualifications is extremely high.
At GradWeb we have been increasingly aware of these shortages as a number of our clients struggle to attract good calibre graduates in Electrical, Mechanical and Civil Engineering, Environmental Science and Physics.
However, the volume of international students studying STEM subjects at UK institutions is on the rise, with an average of 30% of the places on engineering and technology courses being filled by overseas students. However, many overseas students return to their domicile country on completion of their degree, reducing the talent pool available in the UK market. Of course, one short term way in which organisations can look to rectify this is to sponsor applicants who require a work permit. However, obtaining work permits can be a lengthy, costly and complicated process for the organisation with no guarantee of the applicant being permitted to remain to work in the UK long term.
So, what steps can be taken to ensure the high demand for graduates studying for STEM qualifications is fulfilled? GradFocus investigated the activities some organisations have either put in place or want to see established in the near future, in the hope of solving this resourcing issue.
Building enthusiasm at early stages in the application process
Since its establishment in early 2002, the STEM Ambassadors programme has enabled school teachers to make links with the current curriculum to show how STEM is practiced in the world of work. Funded by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills the programme utilises the time and experience of volunteers, who act as inspiring role models for young people. STEM ambassadors work closely with schools, aiming to increase student’s interest in STEM subjects in the hope of them pursuing these subjects through higher education and beyond.
The new coalition government has plans to increase the number of apprenticeships available by 20% offering opportunities for school leavers to expertly learn a skill and obtain qualifications while benefitting from business support at the same time as committing themselves to an organisation.
Some employers offer sponsorship to individuals and support them financially throughout the completion of their degree, with a guaranteed job offer at the end. Other variations of sponsorship, such as the Logica Sponsored Degree Programme at Winchester University, pay the individual’s full tuition fees to study part time, whilst simultaneously working for Logica.
Training and development
Despite the recession, 63% of employers surveyed in the 2010 Education and Skills survey still recognised the importance of training and development in their organisations. As new markets such as ‘low carbon vehicles’ and ‘renewable energies’ emerge the need for investment in these new skills is recognised as a priority, with calls for an increase in government-funded training, perhaps encouraging more students to pursue these more ‘attractive’ STEM based roles.
In 2009, the Labour government committed to increasing access to triple science at GCSE level with all mainstream schools offering it by 2014. Results have shown pupils who study triple science are more likely to continue it through to A level due to higher attainment at GCSE level. The current coalition government is looking to continue with incentives to increase STEM retention, with determination to further improve the primary curriculum by centering it around subjects such as Maths and Science and a desire to create a greater focus on STEM subjects in secondary schools by altering student perceptions and improving the quality of teaching with incentives for Maths and Science graduates.
With continuous media reports and surveys being published it appears the skills shortage, especially in the STEM sector, is likely to be around for some time. With many organisations now taking the initiative to integrate with students early on in their education, the answer may lie in early attraction.
We would love to know your thoughts on the skills shortage and, if it’s affected your organisation, what measures have you put in place? Join our LinkedIn discussion now.