Figures show higher than expected rise in STEM jobs

Posted on 11 Aug 2023 by The Manufacturer

An industry expert has hailed figures showing a higher than predicted increase in STEM jobs, calling for more action instead of “complacency” to ensure a consistent talent pipeline across science, technology, engineering and maths fields.

According to a 2022 study, the total number of UK employees in a STEM occupation was just over 2.89 million, with some 2,975,762 people expected to be working in a STEM job by 2026. This surpasses figures forecasted the previous year, which revealed STEM jobs were expected to account for 7.8 per cent of all jobs in the UK by 2023 – the equivalent to 2.5 million jobs overall.

This is also backed by a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which found that in July to September 2022, 2.8 million people were employed in professional scientific and technical occupations—with health included in the definition—representing approximately 8.5 per cent of a total workforce of 32.7 million.

In a separate survey*, 1,000 young people aged 30 and under shared their thoughts towards careers in STEM, and included university students, those working in the industry, or who were in completely different jobs altogether. The study, by London-based manufacturing specialist Get It Made, revealed that almost half (47 per cent) of that same age group would consider working in a STEM-related field in the future. Of those surveyed, one in four (25 per cent) already worked in a STEM role and were strongly considering staying in the industry in the future, with just a small 15 per cent stating they would not consider working in the industry at any point.

While these findings could be behind the recent increase in the uptake of STEM roles, which trends may also be responsible for higher than anticipated numbers?

According to Get It Made’s Founder and Director Luke Smoothy, it’s no surprise that the pandemic and the accelerated shift to digitisation are playing a pivotal part. “We’re seeing a surge in computing jobs thanks to the rapid growth of tech, which also explains recent data showing a record number of applications made by UK 18-year-olds to computing courses.

He continues: “COVID has also seen an increase in young people’s perceptions of scientists making a positive impact in the world, with 38 per cent of young people reconsidering their study and career options as a direct result of the pandemic. Young people also reported they were slightly or much more likely to consider future study or work in STEM as a result, and interestingly, 20 per cent of girls said they were likely to choose STEM subjects as a result of the pandemic, compared to 16 per cent of boys.

And, Smoothy asserts, it’s not just the younger generation who are driving these trends: “One of the changes to emerge from the pandemic is the number of adults considering re-training or upskilling in STEM or digital specialisms such as cyber security, either due to redundancies or planned career changes to increase job security.”

But while he acknowledges the industry itself has good support groups and initiatives, as current employers, businesses and brands in this space, he feels that more can be done. “STEM skills are vital to the UK economy for growth, development and emerging markets, so we must ensure a continued flow of talent and commensurate opportunities in these roles, otherwise innovation, production and manufacturing slows, and the economy itself will slow. It’s crucial we actively push that growth trajectory and don’t just assume figures will rise organically. We need to find a way for the Government and STEM brands to work together to not just retain current talent, but to focus on the sustainable and consistent development of a STEM talent pipeline over the coming years, so we can provide individuals with the skills and know-how to drive green and digital growth.”

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