Get the next generation involved in STEM to solve the skills gap

Get more children involved in STEM and we will help to solve the engineering skills gap. That was one of the key messages delivered by the Rt Hon Anne Milton MP, Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills and Minister for Women, at last week’s Big Bang @ Parliament event.

Current figures from the EngineeringUK State of Engineering report estimate that the UK is experiencing an annual shortfall of at least 20,000 engineering graduates annually. And the picture worsens, as the skills gap is predicted to be further exacerbated in the future.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Big Bang is an initiative from EngineeringUK which aims to encourage young people into STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects and careers through a series of inspiring STEM fairs across the country. Fortunately, the level of interest amongst young people in engineering is increasing; the 2017 State of Engineering report reported that more 11-16 year olds were considering a career in engineering (up from 40% to 51% in four years). In addition, England saw the highest number of engineering related apprenticeship starts in ten years in 2014/15 - 108,000 - and so it appears that STEM initiatives are paying off.

A secondary message communicated by the Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills and the Minister for Women at the Big Bang event was the importance of engaging young girls into STEM subjects. The Women’s Engineering Society reports that only around 20% of A Level physics students are girls, a statistic which has remained unchanged in 25 years and currently only 9% of the engineering workforce is made up by women.

Overall, the gender gap in the take up of and achievement in core STEM GCSE subjects is reducing, which shows a positive sign of improvement. However, the engagement of girls and women in the STEM industries must remain a key priority for all invested in the engineering industry. Increasing diversity and inclusion across engineering helps to create inclusive cultures, to drive innovation and creativity. If more young women and girls choose STEM, it can only stand to have a positive difference in helping to reduce the skills gap. 
Grahame Carter, MD of Matchtech, and attendee of Big Bang @ Parliament, commented:

“Meeting talented young engineers at Big Bang Parliament whose projects tackle everything from generating the solar powered water pumps that will help less economically developed countries to simplifying the modern smartphone to make technology accessible for everyone is not only inspiring, but gives me confidence that the future of UK engineering is in safe hands.

Matchtech’s Voice of the Workforce research highlighted that the promotion of STEM at school and Apprenticeships are seen by engineers as the most effective solutions in addressing the skills shortage in the future. STEM initiatives like Big Bang Fair and Tomorrow’s Engineer give all engineering employers the opportunity to have a positive effect on young aspiring engineers and a real impact on the skills shortage.”

If you’re as passionate as we are about developing future engineering talent and want to know more about Big Bang Fair or STEM initiatives visit EngineeringUK’s website:

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