Government urged to help embed STEM in primary education

The Institution of Engineering and Technology has led a call for government to close Britain’s STEM skills gap, which is estimated to cost £1.5bn annually to the economy.

STEM
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In an open letter to PM Boris Johnson – signed by STEM pioneers and representatives from Rolls Royce, Vodafone and the MoD – the group has appealed to the government to work with educators and industry to develop practical support for primary school teachers and embed engineering in existing STEM learning.

Reports from the IET this summer estimate a shortfall of over 173,000 workers in the UK STEM sector, which works out at an average of 10 unfilled roles per business. IET’s latest Skills Survey identifies that half (49 per cent) of engineering businesses are experiencing difficulties in the skills available to them when recruiting. IET added that it has followed the problem for the past 15 years, which it says is ‘longer than the time it takes for a primary aged-child to complete their education’.

MORE FROM SKILLS & CAREERS

According to IET, the situation can be resolved by embedding engineering into primary school learning to help bridge the growing skills gap within UK workforces and support #EngineeringKidsFutures.

In a statement, Professor Danielle George MBE, Immediate Past President at the IET and Engineering Kids’ Futures ambassador, said: “To ‘build back better’ and fully embrace the ‘green industrial revolution’ promised by the government it is essential to start with solid foundations. By adding more focus on misunderstood terms like engineering and technology, where we know there is a perception problem, it will help young people from all backgrounds learn vital engineering and tech skills early on and increase their career aspirations.

“We propose collaboration between the government, STEM education supporters, academia, and industry to provide teachers with the tools to showcase that science, design & technology and maths have vital elements of engineering within them and proactively encourage the teaching of engineering in our primary schools.

“This focus and support for schools is fundamental if we want to futureproof the next generation of engineers. And these benefits extend far beyond the classroom – from higher earnings to better job satisfaction, our research shows that those in STEM careers can hit life goals such as financial independence much sooner than their peers.”

Together with representatives from institutions – including The Engineering Council, WISE, Engineering Development Trust, and Engineering in Motion amongst others – and STEM pioneers including Major Tim Peake, Carol Vorderman MBE, and will.i.am, the IET has signed an open letter to government calling for Engineering Kids’ Futures to be formally introduced into schools by the next academic year. The letter has been signed by leaders at over 150 of the UK’s leading engineering and technology employers including Rolls Royce, Thames Water and EON.

“Data suggests that 65 per cent of our children will eventually work in a job doesn’t yet exist, said Andrew Smyth MEng MIET ARAeS, presenter & Aerospace Engineer at Rolls-Royce. “If we truly want to help the next generation of young workers thrive in a digital world, futureproofing their education must be a priority. It’s our duty of care as employers and business owners to provide children with equal opportunities to learn vital engineering and technology skills that will allow them to prosper in the modern workforce later in life.”