In a speech last week about higher education, business secretary Vince Cable acknowledged a special need for science and technology graduates, who are badly needed by industry. Cable is leading a rethink by the coalition government about how higher education courses should be funded more equitably.
By Helen Beckett [22/07/2010]
A key plank of his speech proposed a student tax rate to be levied instead of tuition fees, thus linking the cost of study to earning power accrued after graduation. But Cable also said, "The state does have a particular funding role in supporting subjects where the evidence suggests that there is a large social as well as private return, and which are costly to teach. STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects come into this category."
The CBI currently estimates that by 2014 there will be unmet demand for 775,000 roles requiring higher level science, technology, engineering and maths. Around 60% of businesses expect problems recruiting staff with STEM skills over the next three years. Research by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) further shows that only 6 per cent of UK graduates are engineers compared to15 per cent in continental Europe.
The most recent report by UKFI for early 2010 says that skill shortages, especially for engineers, are the most single important concern of prospective foreign investors. The evidence suggests that there are continuing shortages of STEM graduates, and Cable commented, "We clearly need to be advertising the attractive remuneration returns to prospective students a lot more clearly."
Cable’s words may give heart to students considering their career direction and also to graduates currently looking for jobs. Despite recent scary headlines about too many candidates chasing job applications, the need by industry and business for qualified IT professionals remains pressing.
If you're a graduate looking for ways to supplement your academic qualifications in order to become more employable, there are also options to consider:
Seek out your nearest cluster
The West Midlands, Cumbria and Hampshire are among those regions offering work placement, career advice and training within ICT clusters. Clusters are designed to encourage small businesses to take on graduates from local universities and to deter students leaving for technology hotbeds such as Reading, Swindon and London.
The West Midlands’ initiatives alone have created bursaries to support 1200 graduate placements for business in the region.
Enhance your employability
You could do worse than follow the IT Management for Business model, which includes work experience and mock interviews to improve students’ job prospects. Winner of the Loughborough University 2010 employability award, Andrew Richardson, was an ITMB student.
His course included the opportunity to hone interview skills and receive feedback and advice from employers. "The mock interview days were awesome," he says. "They were really challenging and enjoyable and very motivating to students when you have actual face time with employers."
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