Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency indicate the number of postgraduate and undergraduate students opting for a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) field has seen just a modest rise in recent years. Mary Hunter, Managing Director of digital business services provider, Columbus UK, discusses the need to nurture the next generation of STEM students to help address the skilled workforce shortage, and how community outreach programmes can play a key role.
The UK currently draws heavily on overseas talent in technical industries, yet a critical shortage of skilled workers remains. Surveys from late 2017 indicate 75 per cent of businesses in the manufacturing sector struggled to recruit suitably qualified employees for skilled positions, and this issue is set to have a knock-on effect for the growth and order prospects of many manufacturers.
Bridging the talent gap
We need to nurture the next generation of STEM students from an early age. Close collaboration between industry, the education system and even government could hold the answer. Businesses have the skills, resources and role models to engage with children, and in turn grow the future UK talent pool of skilled workers. By investing in the next generation, it will be these businesses who reap the rewards in turn.
Teaching STEM – it’s never too early but it can be late
It is commonplace for many organisations operating within skilled industries to offer apprenticeships as an avenue for on-the-job industry training and building up transferable technical skills. But are we doing enough to encourage children into STEM fields from an early age?
Code Clubs – a starter for ten that businesses should build on
The recent introduction of Code Clubs and similar extracurricular activities at primary schools across the UK provide an early opportunity to open a route to explore technical fields, and continue to feed that ambition and interest with like-minded individuals, regardless of background. Businesses can play a central role in these activities by investing technology, funding and spare time to supply, teach and speak to students.
Small investment, large reward
Businesses can spark an interest in these fields from an early age. Columbus works with customers such as Weetabix – a household name among children – and we've been able to engage with children on the subject of STEM disciplines, in a way designed to both excite and inspire. Instead of discussing software development through slideshows, Columbus experts were able to walk a class through the journey of a staple food of UK households.