There’s no doubt that technology is moving at a rapid pace and that there’s not only a growing shortage of STEM educated graduates to catch it up, there is also a concern over the UK’s ability to inspire and influence the future generation to take up technology subjects at a young age. The age at which many children make huge, if slightly subconscious, decisions about their own abilities and direction.
There’s an easy answer to what is undoubtedly a difficult question – increasing the stream of STEM educated students into the workforce. The question is how?
Teach them young and teach them well
There are various initiatives out there, aimed at primary and secondary schools, which are developed and run to enhance employer educator relationships and ensure that STEM education is in line with the industry itself. The end result? Students emerge into the workforce up to speed and very employable.
One of the most effective initiatives is the Small Peice Trust, an independent educational charity that provides STEM activities for years 6 to 12. Crucially, it not only targets the students but the teachers as well, offering teacher training days led by STEM professionals and educators to ensure that the subject is being taught effectively and that teachers are not only teaching well, but that what they are teaching is current, applicable to the industry, and has value beyond impressing OFSTED.
STEM Ambassadors lead the way
One of the most valuable tools in the STEM box is inspiring the next generation and this gets no better than a scheme run by STEM learning that sees over 30,000 STEM Ambassadors from over 2,500 different employers volunteer their time and energy to go into schools and colleges and motivate young people to take up the STEM baton and run with it. It’s aimed at the heart of the matter and is organic in its very nature – get them hungry for it and capture their imagination by showing them what they can achieve and how.
Investing in the future of technology
Importantly, the government are now on board with the idea that to populate and strengthen the tech sector, it needs to join forces with the industry itself. The Higher Education Funding Council for England funds and regulates universities in England, acting as negotiator between the Government and the tech sector to ensure the right sort of STEM education is being offered.
Figures from the academic year show that the HEFCE invested a large sum of money in SIGMA – a student support network in the maths and statistics area, a capability long regarded as a crucial string to the successful tech graduate’s bow. Maths, physics, biology and chemistry are the most populated A Levels taken by students on STEM degree courses. This is the information that needs to be made clear at GCSE level if we are to guarantee that the future pool of STEM graduates is not only fit to burst, but ready to move the industry forward.
Bridging the gap with work still to do
Interesting research commissioned by SCORE highlights the gap between the small number of technology subjects available at school level in contrast to the huge number of options available at degree level. In simple terms, there needs to be a far greater scope of STEM subjects to grab the interest of the pre-16’s as well as a clearer path for students traversing the range of subjects available. Sparking the interest of school leavers and pushing through the next generation of the tech workforce will ensure that the UK is top of the class.
So where can we stem the leak?
The services out there to stir and excite the younger generation appear to be fully operational and the emphasis is very much on inspiring early. What appears to be lacking is the meat in the sandwich – a wide enough variety of subjects on offer to make sure every child interested in technology subjects can progress in them.
So, whilst there is enough out there to suggest schools and industry bodies are really working well together – without the variety of subjects at primary and secondary school level, there will be a huge number of degrees places available but not enough educated young people to fill them.
CWJobs, lorries, and robots
New roles will constantly be created in this fast paced and exciting sector; this is an incredible age for technology that has just seen a convoy of self-driving lorries take to the road and Sophia, the humanistic robot flirt with Piers Morgan on breakfast TV.
Schools, colleges, and universities need to push for a broader scope of subjects and content and keep one eye on the ever-escalating trends. Ensuring that they engage with both their students, the industry bodies, and the curriculum content will produce enough skilled people to flood the market place.