The National Audit Office (NAO) has published an assessment of the government’s approach to increasing participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) education to boost the number of people with the right STEM skills. The report finds that so far the government “has spent, or committed to spending, £990 on key STEM-specific interventions between 2007 and autumn 2017” in an effort to boost STEM skills for the future economy.
The report finds that, on skills and careers:
there is a STEM skills mismatch rather than a simple shortage; there is a shortage of STEM skills at technician level, but an oversupply in other areas such biological science graduate numbers
there is a persistent trend of female underrepresentation at all stages of the STEM skills pipeline
On education, the NAO finds that “some STEM initiatives have been effective but overall coordination has been lacking.” Key findings include:
there was a 3% increase in STEM A levels entries between 2011/12 and 2016/17
last year, just 8% of STEM apprenticeship starts were female, despite an equal gender split on all apprenticeship starts
The report concludes that “the absence of a precise understanding of the STEM skills problem means the efforts of the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy are not well prioritised and a better targeted approach is needed to demonstrate value for money”. The full NAO report is available to read here.
Governing boards must ensure that good quality advice on options for further education, careers and apprenticeships is made available to all young people. For further guidance on questions to ask primary and secondary school leaders on science, maths and careers provision, visit the Wellcome Trust’s Questions for Governors website. Also of note is the government’s Year of Engineering campaign to encourage more young people, especially girls, to consider a career in engineering. You can read more about the campaign and access further resources here.