Manufacturers must work more closely with educators to promote STEM careers

POSTED: 18th November 2015
IN: Business news

With 2.5 million engineering and manufacturing roles needing to be filled before 2022, Aldermore look at how educators and manufacturers can work together to promote STEM careers.

Manufacturing and engineering companies play a vital role in the UK, in terms of both employment and contribution to the economy. In fact, the Engineering UK 2015 report highlights how the industry’s turnover has climbed to reach £1.17 trillion, representing a quarter of all UK turnover. Employment levels are also strong, with manufacturing and engineering firms employing more than 5.4 million workers, a fifth of all people employed in UK enterprises.

It is estimated that manufacturing and engineering employers have the potential to generate an additional £27 billion per year from 2022, but only if the demand for skilled employees is met.

According to EEF, there will be over 2.5 million job openings in engineering firms up to 2022, with manufacturers needing to find almost one skilled million workers by 2020, just to replace those retiring or leaving the industry.

The importance of promoting STEM careers

The single biggest threat to the future success of the manufacturing and engineering industry lies with education. In order to meet future demand for skilled employees, more young people need to be encouraged to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects in further and higher education.

There is a strong demand from employers for STEM-skilled employees, with EEF reporting that 66 per cent of manufacturers plan to recruit an engineering graduate within the next three years. It is not just engineering graduates who are attractive prospects, however, with 66 per cent of manufacturing planning to recruit an engineering apprentice in the next 12 months.

A collaborative approach

When asked how they thought more young people could be encouraged to pursue careers in manufacturing, 63 per cent of employers said through the introduction of more STEM-promoting initiatives between schools and businesses.

There are a number of different issues that existing STEM-promoting initiatives attempt to address, and some important areas where manufacturers can work together with educational institutions.

One of the most important issues that businesses and educators need to address is the current perception of STEM subjects and careers, both with students and educators. Recent research found that, even among STEM teachers, 17 per cent believed that a STEM related career would be undesirable for their students.

It was also found that only 36 per cent of STEM teachers felt confident in giving manufacturing and engineering careers advice. This finding clashes with research from the Institute for Public Policy Research, which found that young people want more from their careers services – from finding out about local job opportunities and work experience to guidance on future careers paths.

This is a key area where manufacturers should be attempting to work more closely with educators. Where STEM teachers may not feel confident giving careers advice in this area, professionals have the opportunity to fill the gap, giving pupils a deeper understanding of what is involved in STEM careers, and what steps they should be taking if they want to pursue them.

While many manufacturing firms will offer work experience and apprenticeship schemes, these will often only be available to students over a certain age. For younger students, organising class trips to manufacturing or engineering firms, or inviting representatives to talk to students can be an effective way of both educating and engaging them in this area.

Local and national events

For manufacturers wanting to get more involved in the promotion of STEM careers, there are a variety of local and national events that they can participate in.

On a small scale, employers can attend careers fairs at schools and universities, where they can engage with students on a face to face level, answering any questions they may have. On a larger scale, there are a number of nationwide programmes, such as The Big Bang Fair and Tomorrow’s Engineers, which are focussed around encouraging young people to pursue STEM careers.

Aldermore is a strong advocate of the UK STEM sector and was headline sponsor of this year’s EEF Future Manufacturing Awards.

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