NEF: The Innovation Institute is calling for a radical overhaul of scientific and technically-based Further Education courses to avert a wholesale skills crisis in the UK’s engineering, manufacturing and technology sectors.
The Institute’s pan-industry survey, conducted in March, found that only 23 per cent of companies reliant on STEM-based (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills were able to attract recruits with the right experience and qualifications. The survey found that Further Education courses did not fully meet the requirements of around 85 per cent of technology-driven companies.
NEF hosted a Think Tank at the Royal Society on Thursday (27 March) to explore the depth of the skills crisis with senior representatives from government, academia and industry.
The Think Tank was chaired by Baroness Verma of Leicester, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), and attended by over 50 companies from automotive, aeronautical, biotech, health, nuclear, defence, telecommunications, IT, manufacturing, construction and engineering sectors.
The meeting, part of the NEF’s ongoing Inventing the Future project, identified a desperate need for workers that can combine advanced technical skills with innovative and entrepreneurial thinking.
The NEF’s Inventing the Future report, to be published in full this summer, will assess the skills crisis, and explore how industry, government and academia can nurture a generation of technically advanced workers, equipped to deal with rapidly changing technologies.
Baroness Verma said:
“This is a timely debate on how to address the obvious gap we see in STEM skills in the UK. In order for the UK to lead on innovation and to address 21st century challenges such as climate change, we need to find sustainable measures to encourage and build interest in STEM subjects for current and future generations. We need to reach out to people from wider and more diverse backgrounds, to ensure that the plethora of opportunities in the STEM space are properly presented and understood.”
Gavin Patterson, Chief Executive of BT said:
“Continuous innovation is at the heart of BT and has been from its very beginning more than 100 years ago. I am delighted to have the opportunity to support this important report as we collectively assess how innovation, entrepreneurship and STEM skills can combine to assure the economic success of the UK over the long term”
Dr Brooke Hoskins, Director of Strategy, Government Relations and Programme Leadership at defence and aerospace company Raytheon UK said:
“The global hunt for talent is intensifying. For technology-driven companies such as Raytheon, recruiting sufficient numbers of software and systems engineers is an ongoing challenge. We are also experiencing a growing shortage of cyber security experts. We welcome the NEF’s Inventing the Future Initiative as an opportunity to develop meaningful engagement with Further Education institutions. A coherent, nationwide STEM strategy is essential if we are to develop a steady supply of well rounded, technically advanced recruits with the right blend of technical and leadership skills.”
NEF’s CEO Professor Sa’ad Medhat said: “Technology is rapidly changing the occupational profile of many STEM industry sectors. To ensure competitiveness and growth in employment, a reconfiguration of the technical vocational qualification system is desperately needed to address both new areas of economic growth and meet the replacement demand that many STEM related companies are experiencing.”
The Think-Tank was supported by MatchTech, the Engineering Recruitment Group. Further information about Inventing the Future Think Tank can be found here.