Are we on the verge of a STEM revolution?

STEM careers are big news right now.

Barely a week goes by when a story doesn’t drop about a shortage of STEM skills and how the tech and engineering sectors are struggling to find the right candidates to fill their vacancies. On the flip side, we also get lots of stories about schemes to get children and young people – particularly girls and young women – into STEM subjects early, so that they’ll be more inclined to pursue STEM careers.

Whether it’s in-school initiatives, apprenticeship schemes, the Government’s Year of Engineering or small extracurricular organisations teaching kids about engineering, tech, coding and other key STEM areas, it seems as if things are moving in the right direction to bolster the UK’s STEM workforce over the next few years and this could mean we’re on the verge of a STEM revolution.

What do the experts say?

According to Recruitment Gateway Magazine’s recent article, UK STEM employers need to do more to attract the right candidates. This isn’t about offering quirky perks and beanbag chairs, it’s about offering a strong work-life balance and great opportunities for tech and professional development, things which STEM candidates, as we know from our own experience at RTRS, value highly.

The article cites Engineering UK’s report into the state of engineering in 2018, which delivers some fascinating statistics that show there is a lot of positivity in the current and future state of UK STEM careers.

Currently, the market is looking good from a candidate’s perspective. There was a 6% rise in the number of UK engineering enterprises between 2015 and 2016 and, as things stand, 19% of the total UK workforce are in the engineering sector. Meanwhile, 27% of registered UK enterprises sit within engineering.

The future looks bright for STEM candidates, too. The report predicts there will be 157,000 new jobs in big data by 2020 and 7,200 engineering and tech jobs in high speed rail by the same year.

To bolster this further, a huge 62% of engineering and tech graduates enter full-time employment after their degree has finished, compared to the figure of 56% for all graduates. Starting salaries in these sectors are, on average, 18% higher too.

So, if you’re currently looking for your first or new job in the engineering and tech sectors, things are looking positive.

But what’s it like for STEM employers?

Engineering UK’s report also looks at things from the industry perspective and here’s where things get, perhaps, a little less rosy.

61% of UK STEM businesses are not confident there’ll be enough people with the right skills for their high-skilled job vacancies, and they have good reason to believe this. The annual skills shortfall for STEM is currently as high as 59,000 – with that, many engineering graduates and technicians needed to fill core engineering roles.

So where can this shortfall be picked up?

At the moment, there seem to be a lot of people excluded from STEM. Currently, the BME community makes up 12% of the UK workforce as a whole, but only 8% of the engineering and tech workforce. Similarly, women make up 47% of the UK workforce, but only 12% are in engineering and tech careers. Clearly, more needs to be done to encourage these groups to consider STEM subjects as viable options for a future career.

While this is being tackled with the various initiatives mentioned earlier, it’s undoubtable that STEM sectors need a lot more candidates with the right skills over the next few years.

What is being done?

It’s certainly not all doom and gloom. There was a 7% increase in engineering-related apprenticeships in the academic year 2015-2016, and this will soon translate into more engineering candidates moving into the workforce or Higher Education.

With schools adding subjects such as coding and robotics to their curriculums, more and more children are getting to see the fun side of STEM subjects at an early age so that they aren’t being overshadowed by their creative counterparts.

At the moment, STEM sectors are very much candidate-driven, with a shortfall meaning that STEM skills are even more highly prized. However, in the next few years, we expect to see more and more candidates with STEM skills sending us their CVs and employers having a much wider, more diverse selection to consider.

Get in touch

If you’re currently looking for an engineering role or candidate you can browse our site or register your job. If you’re based more in IT and tech, check in with our sister company, Evolution. Either way, you can be part of the STEM revolution.