Graduates in STEM ‘need to rise by half’

The majority of future STEM jobs will be in engineering, requiring almost one in five 21-year-olds to enter the profession between now and 2020
(— via Times Higher Education )

This is reported from a Social Market Foundation report, *In the Balance: The STEM human capital crunch”. The SMF’s own press release leads with the, to my mind, even more explosive:

The Government’s aim to rebalance the economy away from financial services is inconceivable due to a 40,000 per year shortage of home-grown graduates in the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) sectors

Their argument appears to be based on last year’s RAEng report Jobs and Growth: the importance of engineering skills to the UK economy (link currently goes to a PDF). I haven’t seen much discussion of that report, despite how crucial its conclusions appear to be.

If this is even vaguely correct, those of us working in STEM engagement and education are tackling not a minor, trivial, spare-time sort of problem, but a major national crisis. Surely.


The timescale being discussed is ‘by 2020’: people who’d graduate from straight-in 4-year degrees in 2020 have already started their GCSEs. Heck, they’re the generation who might still remember my CITV science shows from when they were 9. You know, before science was removed from children’s TV altogether. And they’re the last year group to fall within this study — everybody for the years before 2020 is already in the pipeline. We can fret about conversion rates, but the ball is already in the roulette wheel and where you place your bet is somewhat irrelevant at this point.

I’ve been meaning to write about this — shout about it — since I first heard of the RAEng report last November. I’m still stunned that nobody seems to be running around screaming that the house is on fire.

I’m particularly baffled that the engineering sector doesn’t appear to see this as a crisis. As their crisis. Why aren’t they frantically looking around the sector, wild-eyed with terror, desperate for anything that might make a difference?

Have they given up? Do they not want to invest? Do they think the Big Bang Fair and Queen Elizabeth Prize have them covered? Perhaps they don’t think this is a tractable problem?

I’m genuinely confused.


StoryCog is a communication consultancy and film production company; see more about us here, or explore the links above left. The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors, though they're quite likely to represent the company's position too.


Get in touch, we'd love to hear from you.