Addressing the STEM skills gap

With growing importance on data analytics, we need to inspire more students to join the industry, says Mathworks

The use of data analytics is becoming increasing prevalent; a greater collaboration between industry and academia will close the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills gap; and low cost hardware will continue to accelerate learning. These are the findings of research undertaken at MATLAB EXPO 2015, an event organised by MathWorks, the leading developer of mathematical computing software for engineers and scientists. 

Some 550 academics, technical managers, engineers and scientists attended the conference, with 102 taking part in the survey. The event, held at Silverstone Circuit, allowed attendees to learn about the new and the improved capabilities in MATLAB and Simulink from MathWorks experts.

More than two thirds of those surveyed believe that the availability to perform custom analytics throughout their organisation has become more important in the last two years, with 71 per cent saying that it is engineering staff (as opposed to specialised data scientists) who are performing data analytics tasks.  

Marta Wilczkowiak, senior application engineer at MathWorks, said: “Organisations are increasingly keen on implementation of systems facilitating data-driven decision making, and yet there is a recognised shortage of data scientists, who have skills to transform raw data in insights useful for business.”

A majority of respondents agreed that there was a gender and diversity gap in the study of STEM subjects, and 95 per cent identified that the STEM skills gap could be reduced through greater collaboration between academia, the government and industry. Some 91 per cent also believed that universities should collaborate with industry to better tailor the curriculum and prepare students for possible future careers in STEM.

There is a recognised shortage of data scientists, who have skills to transform raw data in insights useful for business – Marta Wilczkowiak

When considering the academic use of low cost hardware (e.g. Raspberry Pi, Arduino and LEGO Mindstorm), more than three quarters of respondents believe that it is very valuable in helping student to develop practical skills.

Chris Hayhurst, European consulting manager for MathWorks, said: “We face a significant challenge in addressing the STEM skills gap: both in terms of the number of people pursuing careers in STEM, and the skills of graduates going into industry. To overcome this, government, academia and industry must work together to develop curricula that inspire and excite young people, and build the skilled STEM workforce the UK needs to remain competitive.

“A key enabler is the integration of low cost hardware into courses. This approach will continue to help ignite students’ imaginations, allow them to acquire new skills and make sure engineering graduates are industry-ready.”