Finance / Averting a crisis in STEM industries is critical to the UK’s future survival

Averting a crisis in STEM industries is critical to the UK’s future survival

Steve Hemsley talks to businesses about how getting more women involved in science and engineering is paramount to UK industry.

THE UK employs about six million people in STEM-based jobs, but struggles to recruit enough women. Thankfully, businesses and organisations across the sector are busy taking steps to remedy the gender gap. Even the Girl Guides are getting involved – the organisation has recently revamped its badge programme to include rewards for activities such as vlogging and app design.

STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) industries are vital to Britain’s future, with engineering alone worth £370billion to the economy. But according to the Royal Academy of Engineering, the industry is facing a serious skills crisis. An ageing workforce means thousands of skilled technicians must be replaced over the next 10 years – and it is inquisitive and engaged young people that the STEM industries desperately need to woo.

Claire Vyvyan, senior vice president and general manager at technology company Dell EMC Commercial, says the sector must combat the stereotypes and demonstrate the career opportunities available.

“Science and technology can solve the world’s biggest challenges,” she says. “Females are under-represented at the highest levels so encouraging more girls into STEM will enhance the UK economy.”

“Science and technology can solve the world’s biggest challenges. Females are under-represented at the highest levels so encouraging more girls into STEM will enhance the UK economy.” – Claire Vyvyan, Dell EMC Commercial

Dell EMC is working with Genomics England to collect DNA sequences of 70,000 NHS cancer and rare disease patients and their families to develop new disease diagnostics and create more personalised treatments.

Elsewhere, the oil and gas industry fears a skill shortage will hold it back post-Brexit.

Suzy Style, head of UK graduate recruitment at BP, says the sector needs intelligent people who can think through complex issue logically. “At the moment all the STEM industries are competing for people from a relatively small pool of talent,” she says.

Professor Iain Gray, director of aerospace at Cranfield University and former CEO at Innovate UK and managing director at Airbus, says STEM skills are central to the UK’s future competitiveness.

“If we are to collaborate successfully with the fast-growing economies of the Far East and to remain successful as key players in European programmes we have to do it from a position of strength,” he says. “This relies on us having the right skills and experience, and STEM is at the heart of that.”

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