It’s no secret that Britain is not training enough people with the skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) that UK companies need. So, what is being done to address this balance, and how does it help hiring managers looking for top talent now?
One of the barriers for children learning to code has always been its unforgiving nature. A single out-of-place colon can render an entire script inoperable, which can be disheartening. However, with coding now embedded in the national curriculum, the basics are being introduced early in classrooms. One of the most popular ways to inspire children has been the introduction of the Raspberry Pi – essentially a motherboard on its own, this ‘pocket money’ computer costs only a few pounds and can be attached to a range of peripherals, giving students their first experience of coding. On the practical side, a range of afterschool clubs with names like Code Club and Magical Maths are springing up. While this provides hope for the future, it’s not that helpful if you need to recruit people now.
Turning to universities, there has been a real push to focus on STEM subjects; however, as these subjects are more expensive to teach than traditional arts subjects, they offer less profit now that virtually all university courses cost the same. Many universities are still offering dedicated scholarships for STEM subjects, as well as partnerships with leading companies. For a large company, partnering with the right course and offering placements for students could lead to a steady stream of talent.
Apprenticeships offer a more direct route for young people interested in a career in STEM. Combining traditional on-the-job training with flexible academic study and the chance to amass a number of higher-level qualifications, apprenticeship schemes offer an excellent way for a company to invest in future staff, while students get to learn as they earn. However, apprenticeships still struggle with an image of being seen as less prestigious than a degree, and more work needs to be done to highlight the benefits they offer.
Another key element is ensuring a gender balance within STEM. Our society has conditioned many people to think (often subconsciously) that science, technology and engineering are ‘boys’ subjects’; while any rational person knows this is a ludicrous notion, removing inbuilt biases is an arduous task. Athena SWAN is a national programme that promotes gender equality in the STEM fields: it awards organisations ranks of bronze, silver or gold, and such awards encourage more women to get involved at all levels.
The key skills needed for a competent engineer do not have to include the ability to wield a set of spanners, but rather imagination and problem-solving. Most engineering jobs, especially skilled ones, will largely be spent in front of a computer screen rather than underneath a car.
While the challenges faced by companies looking to recruit STEM candidates will remain high in the short to medium term, with such a focus on STEM from the government and HE and FE sectors there are huge opportunities as well. To learn more about boosting the digital resources in your company, talk to our specialist team at Clifford Associates today.
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