Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Experts Claim More STEM Training Required for Secure Future

Statistics from a recent NEF:  The Innovation Institute study suggest that only 16% of UK companies requiring workers with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) training are able to meet their hiring goals.  An additional 32% said that hiring qualified workers is challenging.  With the numbers such as they are, it is no wonder experts are calling on the UK to do more to increase STEM training to secure the technology of the future.

A recent example of this call came by way of speakers addressing the Westminster Higher Education Forum, among whom was former conservative MP Peter Luff.  Mr Luff opened the forum with a speech in which he said, “we need more role models and we all need to work harder to ensure universities produce the graduates we need.”

Listening to all of the speakers was an exercise in learning some of the ins and outs of the technology industry.  Between cloud computing, fibre optics and data centre operations, each seminar attendee was reminded of the skills gap that currently exists throughout the sector.  Speaker after speaker made the case that more trained workers are going to be necessary in the future if we expect to maintain our place as Europe's technology leader.

Emerging Industries:

Technology is a very broad-based category of industry.  So, what specific industries within this category are expected to require more workers in the coming years?  Seminar attendees spoke of things such as the internet of things, mobile communications, cloud technology and 3D printing. Each of these industries requires workers with STEM training and at least some level of basic skills competence.

According to NEF CEO Sa’ad Medhat, some of the responsibility for meeting STEM goals lies with the technology companies who will employ university graduates.  He says companies need to do a better job of assessing current needs and possible trends in order to forecast what skills will be needed in the near and distant future.  Businesses can then work with universities to ensure students are getting the right kind of training.

Proceed with Caution:

We assume that most of what was presented at the Westminster Higher Education Forum is probably spot on however, we cannot help but think that the industry needs to proceed with caution.  Whether you are talking about data centre jobs or building telecom infrastructure, there is no denying that more workers are needed to fill those jobs.  However, we do not want to find ourselves in a position of pushing so many young people into STEM work that we do not have enough entering other career choices.

As just one example, the haulage and transport industries are also desperate for workers right now yet professional driving has been portrayed as a career of last resort for decades, creating many of the problems the industry is now trying to work its way through.  STEM training is important for some students, but not for all. We need to be careful not to make STEM a priority to the detriment of other industries.

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