UKCES finds ‘alarming’ shortage of STEM skills, with engineering worst affected
The risk of job vacancies being left unfilled in the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) industries is almost double the average for all occupations, research has shown.
A report by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) revealed that 43 per cent of STEM vacancies are hard to fill, due to skills shortages, compared to a UK average of 24 per cent for other difficult to fill roles.
It also found that high level STEM workers are less likely to receive training than their counterparts in other roles, indicating that employers must invest more in developing the skills of these workers.
According to the report, five million people are employed in high level STEM roles, making these skills crucial to the success of the UK economy, in terms of jobs, productivity, innovation and competitiveness.
Lesley Giles, deputy director at UKCES, said STEM skills underpin many of the industries at the forefront of the economy.
“These findings highlight an alarming shortage of skills affecting key jobs in the UK economy, and point to a vital need to improve the level of training provision offered to those working within STEM industries.
“There is a vital need for employers to act now to secure a steady flow of talent with the right skills in years to come: building more structured training and development schemes and developing clear career pathways are just two ways in which early action can avert future crises.”
Further findings revealed that engineering is the worst hit, with 60 per cent of vacancies in this sector classed as difficult to fill due to a lack of skills, followed by 40 per cent of vacancies for IT professionals. In comparison, the overall density of skills shortages across the whole UK labour market is around 22 per cent. The report also found that IT and engineering professionals are expected to have the greatest recruitment needs in the future.
Mark Botting, chair of the Science Industry Partnership Futures Group, said that skills shortages ultimately affect an organisation’s ability to compete in an increasingly global market.
“Figures we have collated suggest that a greater proportion of people currently working across industrial and life sciences will be leaving the workforce in the next 25 years than those remaining behind. The sector needs to do something now to address the brain drain.”
Yvonne Baker, chief executive of the National STEM Centre, added: “This report highlights the crucial importance of ensuring that all young people have access to the high quality STEM education, support and training they need.”
The UKCES made a number of recommendations for employers, including that they consider higher apprenticeships to help develop defined career pathways within STEM occupations, as well as ensure they widen the talent pool available to them by making these occupations more attractive to women.
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