Graduates in STEM ‘need to rise by half’

The UK needs to boost its output of science, technology, engineering and maths graduates by almost 50 per cent to satisfy market demand, a thinktank has calculated.

March 18, 2013

The Social Market Foundation’s report, In the Balance: The STEM human capital crunch, published today, calculates that an ageing workforce will see around 100,000 vacancies arise annually in jobs requiring degrees in STEM subjects.

It notes that the coalition government’s crackdown on immigration and uncertainty over future membership of the European Union is likely to require these vacancies to be filled by domestically produced graduates.

Assuming that the number of STEM graduates who enter non-STEM professions remains the same, this will require an extra 40,000 STEM graduates in every year until 2020: a rise of nearly 50 per cent on current numbers.

The majority of future STEM jobs will be in engineering, requiring almost one in five 21-year-olds to enter the profession between now and 2020.

Nida Broughton, senior economist at the foundation and author of the report, said: “The government has made clear its aim to rebalance the UK economy towards manufacturing and away from financial services.

“But it has also pledged to reduce immigration. Our analysis shows that the gulf between skills and jobs makes these aims incompatible in the short-term.”

The report says efforts should be made to tackle underperformance in GCSEs by boys and underprivileged children, and the low take-up of science A levels by girls. However, such efforts would still yield less than half the number of extra STEM graduates required.

“The real solution…lies in starting much earlier to boost GCSE attainment across the board. Expanding the supply of science and maths teachers will therefore be vital in the long-term,” Ms Broughton said.

Last October a report by the Royal Academy of Engineering, on which the Social Market Foundation report draws, estimated that the UK needs to educate at least an extra 10,000 STEM graduates a year just to maintain its current industrial position.

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Reader's comments (1)

>>Assuming that the number of STEM graduates who enter non-STEM professions remains the same, this will require an extra 40,000 STEM graduates in every year until 2020: a rise of nearly 50 per cent on current numbers. Why does this have to be an assumption? Increasing the number of STEM graduates who go into STEM professions seems to me to be a realistic goal. I'm a careers consultant at a large University Alliance institution. We train a lot of engineers and scientists, but it's very difficult for them to find entry-level roles, particularly in non-engineering and non-IT areas, but also in Engineering. If you have a degree in lab-based science and you want to find work in a lab or in research and analysis with a strong quantitative base, it's extraordinarily difficult to find companies or agencies which are recruiting at entry-level. It takes a huge amount of persistence and self-direction to find those roles. Meanwhile, the finance and business sectors - including small businesses - invest an enormous amount in graduate recruitment, with whole teams dedicated to grad scheme marketing, recruitment and training. So a lot of STEM graduates take their quantitative skills into business and finance, simply because those employers are going out looking for them and STEM employers don't seem to be. Gradcracker and TargetJobs are both good resources for engineers (neither has many lab-based or research roles) but even so, graduate civil, electronic and electrical engineers have a higher unemployment rate six months after graduation than English or History graduates. They usually believe that they'll just walk into work, because they've been told over and over again that there's a huge demand for engineers, and it comes as a real shock to them how hard the job market can seem.