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Teachers need help from businesses to close STEM skills gap

More than two-thirds of teachers surveyed said they would like more information, training and guidance from business about STEM careers

Posted by Hannah Vickers | August 22, 2017 | Business

As students across Britain await their exam results, thousands could be missing out on pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM) because teachers do not feel they have enough knowledge of careers within these sectors, according to new research released by British Gas owner, Centrica.

The independent national survey found that nine in ten students said they are influenced by teachers when it comes to deciding what to do after leaving school. However, nearly a third (30%) of teachers do not feel adequately informed about all the different options that are available to students, with almost a quarter (23%) confessing they do not feel confident in their understanding of careers in STEM despite the widely reported STEM skills shortage.

With some teachers not feeling well-versed to guide students down the STEM path, it is not surprising that more than a third (33%) of students surveyed feel under-informed about STEM careers.

The research highlights a gender gap around how STEM careers are perceived. Nearly a third of male teachers (29%) said that STEM careers are more for boys than girls, compared to 16% of female teachers. Furthermore, nearly a quarter of all teachers surveyed (23%) do not feel confident or do not know if job opportunities exist for girls going into STEM careers.

There’s a clear role and need for business to provide more support so that both teachers and students have a better understanding of the exciting options that are available through STEM careers - Catherine O’Kelly, Industry Development Director at British Gas

A gender gap is also prevalent among students. The survey reveals that more than a quarter of girls (27%) said that STEM careers are not for them, versus 14% of boys. When asked, nearly half of all students surveyed could not think of any female role models in STEM.

The route into a STEM career is also seen as a challenge with two-thirds (66%) of students believing it is difficult to get into and requiring high academic achievement. The majority of teachers surveyed also believe this to be the case, despite a number of routes offered into a STEM career through apprenticeships.

Teachers say business should be doing more to close the knowledge gap. More than two-thirds of teachers said they would like more information, training and guidance from business about STEM careers. Half of teachers surveyed specifically requested that businesses come into schools to give careers talks.

Catherine O’Kelly, Industry Development Director at British Gas, commented on the survey findings: “There’s a clear role and need for business to provide more support so that both teachers and students have a better understanding of the exciting options that are available through STEM careers. 

“Innovation and technology are at the heart of our business and is part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. We should encourage students, especially young women who are less confident about pursuing STEM careers, to explore the varied routes into the profession which range from apprenticeships to degrees, and are open to all.”    

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