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Governments’ target of 200,000 in STEM fields likely won’t happen, research finds – FE News


Research shows government ‘dumbing up’ likely won’t hit target

New research from global heat transfer experts Serk reveals that despite increases in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) university applications and employees joining STEM careers, the government’s ‘upgrading’ target of reaching 200,000 by 2030 will not materialize probably not.

To find out if the initiative is on the right track, Serck analyzed 3 years of UCAS acceptance data along with labor market datasets from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to give a holistic view of the rate at which people are currently joining the STEM industry.

Amazingly, UCAS data has illustrated a 3% increase in the number of students choosing to take an engineering and technology course, and if this rate of growth continues, the number of UCAS acceptances will be only 36,350 by 2030.

In terms of ONS data, looking at the growth of the mining, energy and water supply industries over the past 3 years, there has been a 7% increase in the number of people who joined.

While this is better than growing college admissions, the need to encourage more people into STEM is still critical, as the number of people in these fields would be only 2,938 by 2030.

These data highlight a growing need for interest in STEM industries. John Codling, managing director of Serck Heat Exchange, echoes this, commenting:

“The gap is widening with experienced staff approaching retirement age and the pool of potential employees available for recruitment with real skills and experience in our sector (or transferable) is shrinking.”

Additional research by the Engineering Construction Industry (ECI) Training Board shows that the majority of the ECI workforce is between 30 and 40 years old (48%) and only 14% are under 30 years old. This shows that more of the workforce is approaching retirement age, and there are not enough young people in the industry to replace them.

Luke Mather, apprentice at Serksaid:

“This [being an apprentice] was better for me than college, but there is a lack of proper marketing/advertising needed to promote STEM on modern media.

The government has put in place various plans to help it achieve its goals, including:

  • Employers are being given a leading role in working with higher education institutions, other providers and local stakeholders to develop new local upskilling plans that will shape the supply of technical skills so that ‘it meets the skills needs of the local labor market.
  • Nine new Institutes of Technology with strong links to employers will be created in England, helping to build higher technical skills in STEM subjects
  • Continue to support participation in English, math, and digital training to meet employer needs and help individuals progress in employment or further education

However, there is still a long way to go for those with the right skills to embark on STEM careers. Serck’s John Codling echoed Luke Mather’s thoughts and added:

“To close the STEM skills gap, it is essential that more apprenticeship programs are put in place across the industry. At Serck, we believe this is a more effective way to fill our skills gap. And more importantly, educational and inspirational publicity is needed. The industry is a fulfilling career and it is imperative to highlight it.

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