Manufacturers rely on a pipeline of STEM talent to alleviate the skills shortages evident in the industry. SEMTA has projected that in the next five years the sector needs to recruit around 170,000 people, of which half need to be qualified engineering, technologists or scientists.
Meeting this demand with supply will be difficult. We need ambitious targets on the number of STEM qualifiers at both FE and HE level. This week, saw two pieces of good news that suggest we are beginning to boost the STEM talent pipeline.
Firstly, the number of engineering applications for UCAS rose by 8.4% from the previous year. This was against a 3.5% increase in applications overall.
There are ample opportunities for engineering graduates and many find themselves with attractive pay packages and swiftly climbing the career ladder and it seems this message is beginning to get out there.
Secondly, figures released from BIS revealed the number of engineering and manufacturing technologies apprenticeship starts had risen by 21.5%, bringing the total number of starts for 2011/12 to 59,480.
Three-quarters of our members that offer apprenticeship programmes had manufacturing and engineering apprenticeship starts in the past 12 months so it's unsurprising that we have been a boost in numbers!
We want to remain ambitious and ensure that these figures continue to rise year on year to meet growing demand. We must then ensure that take-up of STEM subjects occurs at all key stages preceding FE (apprenticeships) and HE. There is again more good news here.
Engineering UK found that the number of entrants to the individual GCSE science subjects, physics and chemistry and biology have more than tripled from 2003 to 2012. Moreover, these positive trends continued to A level, with the numbers of A level STEM entrants increasing in 2012, with 85,714 pupils choosing maths (+3.3%), 34,509 choosing physics (+5%) and 49,235 choosing chemistry (+2.4%).But these figures now need to be sustained.
We think part of this solution is encouraging more STEM specialists in schools and inviting industry experts to demonstrate how knowledge of these key subjects is applied in the real working world.We also need to ensure young people have access to impartial careers advice, through an independent advisor, as advocated recently by the Education Committee. We also need to give young people the opportunity to experience the world of manufacturing through work placements at Key Stage 4 and 5, as well as encouraging participation out of school hours.
EEF and its members are actively promoting the importance of STEM subjects and the career opportunities available to young people that pursue a career in these fields. Members in the North East have committed to sponsoring the work of Primary Engineer, a not-for-profit organisations that visits primary and secondary schools across the UK to deliver STEM courses, for pupils and teachers, to inspire young pupils to become engineers of the future.
We are also sponsoring the first Manufacturing Prize for the National Science and Engineering Competition, along with the British Science Association, giving young people the opportunity to showcase their talents and skills to those who may become future employers.
All in all, a good week for the manufacturing talent pipeline and long may it continue....