European report

What influences early career European talent into STEM, and how can employers in Europe attract the talent of the future?

 

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Availability vs. requirements for jobs

Europeans are confident of opportunities available to them

Framing flexibility

Conclusion

Introduction

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Highlights

76%

Views on flexible working

76% feel positive that the industries can deliver flexible working options (+2% from the global view) - especially in Tech at 82%. Potentially as IT careers have the opportunity to work remotely.

71%

Gender perceptions

71% feel positive about the equality of opportunity, with synergy between those identifying as male and female. And once in their STEM careers, this view is maintained.

86%

Availability of jobs

86% feel there are plenty of jobs available, and 84% feel they meet the entry-level qualifications.

Introduction

In 2021, over 68 million people aged 25-64 were working within science and technology fields across the EU. Governments around the EU understand the important part STEM skills will play in the future and have launched many initiatives to invest in STEM skills. In 2019, Germany launched a €55m MINT action plan (MINT – mathematics, IT, science, technology – which is the German equivalent of STEM), while within Europe the UK government announced a multi-million investment package for STEM back in 2020.

The STEM Youth survey, in partnership with Social Shifters, looked at the factors and challenges influencing young or early career talent in pursuing a STEM career in Europe.

Survey demographics

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Gender

Male: 40%

Female: 50%

Prefer not to say: 10%

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Age

18-24: 65%

25-30: 35%

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Field of study or interest

Engineering: 28%

Technology (computer science and data): 30%

Sciences (life sciences, biology, chemistry and physics): 33%

Mathematics, finance and statistics: 12%

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Qualification level

Highschool: 24%

Bachelor or undergraduate degree: 51%

Masters or postgraduate: 24%

Doctoral studies: 4%

Overall, Europeans have a very positive view of working within STEM itself, considering the work interesting and challenging (+2% from the global view). Their outlook on STEM is focused less on financial gain and more on the longer-term career benefits compared with the US. Priorities do shift slightly when individuals enter the workplace.

The top three words respondents used to describe STEM were innovative, important and exciting, indicating a positive and fresh outlook on the possibilities within STEM and its ability to make an impact. Many chose to work or study in STEM because of personal subject-area interests, and view STEM as an attractive and growing industry where they'll have continuous learning and development opportunities.

Respondents believed employers and other interested parties could attract those interested or already in STEM education into the scarce jobs of the future in three ways. These were by understanding the perceptions vs reality of the availability of jobs, gender viewpoints and what it truly means to be flexible.

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Availability vs. requirements for jobs

Key statistic: 86% feel there are plenty of jobs available and 84% feel they meet the entry level qualifications. However, when asked about the barriers they face in finding jobs, 34% of respondents said not having practical or work experience is the main obstacle (+5% from the global view).

The right jobs seem to be readily available for early career STEM talent in Europe. Many respondents already in their careers agreed that the skills and training acquired as part of their education helped them lock down their first STEM job. But not everyone agreed.

“Employers are asking for too much for graduate entry roles”.

Some felt having no practical or work-related experience was the main factor that stopped them in their tracks.

This raises several questions. Are European students well-prepared but lack the confidence in their abilities to secure a STEM job? When they do enter the market, do they realise their potential? Are the skills provided by educational institutions, while highly respected and positive, insufficient in equipping them to succeed?

When asked what support they require to help them find a job, one respondent answered, “More work experience throughout high schools to show different types of STEM careers out there, more experience and internships to be available for university students.” While another suggested, “Mentorship by people in the industry is incredibly helpful.”

Unlike the US, European respondents were less positive about their educational institutions providing the right employability support to enter the jobs market. However, for those who are now in work, having a solid academic support network and work experience has been essential in helping them attain a STEM job.

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Europeans are confident about opportunities available to them

Key statistic: 71% feel positive about the equality of opportunity, with synergy between those identifying as male and female. And once in their STEM careers, this view is maintained.

According to a Eurostat report there has been a growth in the number of women in employment within the EU over the past 12 years, alongside a small improvement in the gender pay gap. In our research, young men and women in Europe shared the same views about the equality of opportunities. Compared to the US, female European respondents had a much more positive outlook (71% vs 57%) on the equality of STEM opportunities. Overall, European women and Europeans generally had more confidence in their prospects and options.

Therefore, employers have less of a challenge in ensuring the inclusivity of jobs and prospects but shouldn't entirely dismiss this as a contributing factor. As identified in our How the STEM world works research, women are a powerful source of new talent that can help address the STEM skills shortage, but the equal opportunities momentum needs to continue.

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Framing Flexibility

Key statistic: 76% feel positive that the industries can deliver flexible working options (+2% from the global view) - especially in Tech at 82%.

Europeans leant more in favour of flexible working options, as also discovered in our 'How the STEM world works' research. Belgium, France and Spain rated flexible working options above pay and benefits and the Netherlands and Luxembourg preferred a good work/life balance.

Young professionals felt technology disciplines can provide this flexibility. IT careers have more remote working opportunities compared to more traditional STEM fields like engineering where many jobs still require skills on-site. This freedom is attractive to early career European talent.

Additionally, students felt work/life balance in STEM was attainable, with few concerns over how this can be achieved. Over half of the respondents already in STEM careers are actively prioritising better balance above all else.

Naturally, the potential to earn higher wages through STEM is still among the top reasons for selecting a career in one of the fields. But the degree to which this is felt is more balanced in Europe compared with the US.

For employers, it's all about offering the right balance and additional benefits and being conscious of the requirements that are necessary for the job.

Conclusion

Young career Europeans think STEM industries provide careers that deliver interest, development, security, mobility and opportunities.

Respondents expressed the need for ongoing clarity, growth and support for career development. And the skills and knowledge acquired through education are crucial to securing a STEM job, with help from practical work experience.

Prospective employers can spark interest and attract STEM talent through placements, focusing on employability for students, and showing early careerists how they can use their qualifications to secure experience that will add value to them and future employers.

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