Already struggling with the fall-out from Covid-19, ongoing war in Ukraine and rising inflation, there’s concern the global economy is being further weakened by a growing shortage of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.
That’s the fear of organisations like the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), which has a membership that spans more than 150 countries around the world.
A report from the IET reveals an estimated shortfall of more than 173,000 workers in the UK’s STEM sector alone and argues that investing in opportunities for the workforce to develop STEM skills is a must if the country’s economy is to be regenerated. “This not only relates to job creation, but also firm productivity and scaling up markets for companies of all size.”
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that between 2022 and 2030, the number of jobs that require STEM skills will grow at a faster rate than other employment. Yet, research by the National Skills Coalition found nearly one-third of US workers lack digital skills – critical to filling STEM job vacancies.
A lack of STEM skills threatens to hinder an increasing number of different industries. In Japan, the country’s largest semiconductor manufacturers are warning that about 35,000 engineers will need to be hired in the next 10 years to keep up with the pace of investment.
The growing need for digitisation, automation and tech-enabled services in India has boosted the job market. However, these jobs are “more skill-intensive”, according to McKinsey’s ‘Digital India’ report. Skills that organisations have difficulty finding include creativity and originality, critical thinking and analysis, reasoning and problem-solving, leadership and social influence and initiative-taking.
Accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the rapid growth of new technologies means people will need to continually update their skills or reskill entirely: “Talent development, lifelong learning and career reinvention are going to be critical for the future workforce,” says the IET report. This means industry and government need to “adapt to the changing nature of work by focusing on training people for the jobs of tomorrow”.
Government-backed training programmes
STEM skills are in demand – but how can potential candidates acquire them? Before you start searching, bear in mind that you may already have some – communication, problem-solving, teamwork and project management are all transferable skills that can help you get a STEM job.
Next, be clear of your career goal – what job are you after? In what industry? Knowing the answer to that will help you find out what qualifications or skills you need.
You might begin with a training course like those now available on the UK government’s Skills for Life platform. Germany’s Activation and Placement Voucher scheme similarly covers the cost of training courses to job seeker to add extra skills.
Another recent development in the UK has been the establishment of Institutes of Technology (IoTs) – which are collaborations between further education colleges, universities and local employers to deliver high-quality STEM education (mainly at Levels 4 or 5) and open to people of all ages.
Getting paid to learn
Apprenticeship schemes are another way of nurturing new STEM talent offering people the chance to acquire new skills, gain workplace experience and get paid. Growing in popularity to tackle the UK’s STEM skills crisis, students can now even pursue a medical doctor degree apprenticeship. A new apprenticeship search tool is available on the gov.uk website.
There are STEM career paths you can pursue without having a degree. However, for some areas like engineering, formal training is required, so you might need to prepare for going back to university to get the right degree.
Every country is home to several universities that provide STEM-related courses. If you don’t meet the entry requirements and you are a mature applicant, you might be exempt from these requirements. Contact the university directly, as there may be an alternative entry test they can arrange for you.
If don’t have the right grades, you’ll need to investigate taking or re-taking exams to get the necessary qualifications. There are several ways of doing this – at a local college or even via a remote learning course.
Lydia Amarquaye is Professional Development & Education Policy Advisor for the
Institution Of Mechanical Engineers, which has members in 140 countries. She says: “STEM is not perceived as highly as it should be, so there is some work to be done to raise its profile and the career possibilities within STEM.”
However, she certainly agrees that acquiring sought-after STEM skills can “open a lot of doors” for those looking to upskill or reskill.
There’s no doubt STEM skills are in demand across the globe. Efforts being made by the UK government, and by other countries too, are beginning to work towards filling the skills gap. For job candidates, the chance to get STEM training is a major opportunity.
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