The STEM skills gap on the road to closing?

Today students received A-Level results across the country.

Days like these are important in reminding the UK business sector that the UK’s STEM skills gap can be addressed at school level.

According to the IET’s annual survey, the “skills gap” has worsened for the ninth year in a row, with over half of British firms employing engineers and IT staff reporting they cannot find the staff they need and 59% saying the shortage is a threat to business, said Scott MacFarlane fromFuturestep.

The UK, according to research, will require “almost 1.3 million STEM professionals by 2020 but with universities and colleges only currently turning out 71,000 STEM graduates a year, the future is uncertain”.

This gap is alarmingly wide of the mark, so it slightly reassuring that the number of students choosing computer sciences, mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics (STEM) subjects at A-level are increasing.

“The number of students taking computing has increased by 56% since 2011″ confirms Antony Walker, deputy CEO of techUK.

>See also: Solving the STEM conundrum: how to bridge the skills shortage

While this is encouraging, the the digital economy is growing at an exponential rate, and new career paths are being created every day that required these STEM skill sets.

Businesses should be taking the initiative to help schools close the skills gap.

HP, for example, has placed significant importance on this.

The company spearheaded the Digital Schools of Distinction programme, which works alongside Government and industry to recognise and reward schools who fully embrace the use of technology in education.

Those businesses that are experiencing a shortage of skilled workers have a responsibility to partner with the education sector to enhance digital learning and close the skills gap.

>See also: Government relaxes student loan access to help boost STEM skills

Efforts like these will help the next generation develop a “solid foundation in areas like analytics, business intelligence and data management,” according to Mark Wilkinson, SAS regional vice president of northern Europe.

Brexit has made addressing the STEM skills gap even more of a priority, as a survey by Tech City UK revealed that 51% of 1200 tech sector respondents thought it would be difficult to recruit and retain the best staff.

“However, this is just the beginning; we don’t yet know which skills will be required in years to come and so we need to create a resilient workforce, equipped with the necessary skills to help businesses continue to adapt and thrive in the digital economy,” said Lynn Collier COO UK&I at Hitachi Data Systems.

For this to be achieved, for the skills gap to be closed, it is vital, according to Wilkinson, that academic institutions work more closely with businesses in designing of degree courses.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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