17% of job vacancies in England are now directly attributable to skills shortages,so why is the female talent pool not being tapped into?
A new report conducted by the UKRC WISE and sponsored by BAE Systems suggests that that the problems start at school. Girls traditionally opt for English and Art subjects rather than Maths and Physics, thereby closing the doors to many science and technical careers where the jobs in the future are going to be.
The UKRC WISE report confirms the reasoning behind girls not progressing with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects is to do with culture rather than ability, because the minority of girls who pursue STEM subjects do as well if not better than boys. Yet the numbers remain persistently low - only 76 more girls were studying physics in 2011 than there were in 2001.
So what can be done?
The UKRC WISE report reviewed the evidence and recommendations from 29 recent research reports and has come up with 8 practical suggestions for a new approach to convince girls that science and technology could be their passport to a whole range of exciting opportunities where they can develop creative skills, make a difference and find work that is financially as well as personally rewarding.
- Publish information about the demand for STEM skills and qualifications, particularly the commercial value of maths and science qualifications, so young people and their parents realise the job and career opportunities
- Show the range of career options, using role models from diverse backgrounds to appeal to whole spectrum of student population
- Embed careers information into the teaching of maths and science, from primary school onward
- Use social media such as YouTube and Facebook to promote case studies, blogs etc
- Promote more technician and apprentice case studies
- Promote more case studies and role models from BME backgrounds
- Promote more role models from following sectors: technology/computing, chemistry, energy and power, food, materials and built environment
- More collaboration between STEM organisations and initiatives would make a bigger overall impact
- As reported by the Local Government Association, training for young people is failing to produce enough people with skills where there are jobs, and is instead seeing lots of beauty workers, personal trainers and media professionals all qualified for jobs that don't exist. The research highlights that despite the recession, there is a distinct lack of electricians, plumbers, engineers and environmental officers of which there is a demand. In the construction sector alone, there were two jobs advertised for every qualified person.
Despite these dramatic reports, the UK is still failing to tap into the female talent pool. In the UK, Engineering is facing skills shortages, having the lowest number of engineers than any country in Europe less than 1 in 10 of our engineers are female, thats nearly half as many as the proportion of France and Spain.