STEM skills are crucial for the UK’s productivity, and a shortage of STEM skills in the workforce is one of our key economic problems. The future workforce relies on many more children and young people being encouraged to take STEM subjects and enter STEM careers. Government is not well placed to understand the extent of the challenge and ensure the supply of STEM skills, especially in the context of withdrawal from the European Union. In particular, there remains a need to address marked gender imbalances in several areas of STEM learning and work—demonstrated, for example, by the fact that only 8% of STEM apprenticeship starts are undertaken by women. The quality of careers advice in schools is patchy at best, perpetuating misconceptions about STEM careers. In addition, the way that schools are funded will restrict the likelihood of pupils moving to other, more STEM-focused learning providers, such as the new institutes of technology. To make better-informed decisions, departments also need to tackle the apparent lack of industry and commercial experience on their STEM boards and working groups.
Published: 22 June 2018