Government statistics published earlier this month show a marked increase in the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, up 26.2% since 2010.
At first glance, the rise is a significant boost in the bid to close the UK’s STEM skills gap. However, new research from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) suggests that such hopes should be tempered with caution.
After collating feedback from 700 UK engineering and technology companies, IET found that 73% experienced problems with job candidates whose workplace skills failed to match their academic knowledge.
“It’s fantastic to see an increase in young people choosing science-related subjects,” said IET skills and education policy lead, Stephanie Baxter. “However, it is crucial that young people are supported in their studies. Without the right balance of education, work experience and careers guidance, they might not be aware of the exciting range of engineering roles available to them, which in turn could be compounding the industry’s skills problem and limit their work-readiness.”
Improved careers guidance, says the IET, means acknowledging and supporting the need for vocational routes into work, including apprenticeships and T-Levels. Amid fears that the current curriculum curtails the ‘work-readiness’ of would-be engineers, the IET also argues that the education and employment sectors need to better work together in offering a wide range of relevant work experience to engineering students.
“The country needs more people studying science and engineering subjects at university and taking up apprenticeships,” added Baxter. “It’s never too early to start developing the next generation of homegrown talent [with] the right practical skills for careers in modern engineering, and we believe that a combination of education and work experience will help to achieve this.”
For more information about the IET’s range of support and options available to students, click here.