Why focusing on STEM teaching and training all adds up

No one should be in any doubt, if the UK is to remain an economic powerhouse in a world where traditional competitors and emerging nations are developing at a rapid pace, then tackling the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), particularly in Further Education, has reached a critical stage.

Research by the CBI indicates 20% of the workforce – 5.8m people – are employed in STEM-based occupations. It also reported that 42% of employers currently experience difficulties in recruiting STEM-proficient staff at all levels of expertise, from apprentices to postgraduates.

It is clear there is a shortage of specialist STEM teachers and tutors. A recent report by Engineering UK revealed almost a quarter of those in secondary schools teaching maths (23%) and chemistry (24%), and a third teaching physics (34%) have no qualification in the subject beyond A-level.

All very concerning when latest estimates suggest the STEM sector requires 82,000 new recruits by 2016 and 830,000 STEM professionals by 2020.

Success in promoting science and maths to young people, and encouraging continued STEM study beyond school, depends on high quality teaching delivered by subject specialists.

These are just some of the reasons why Semta has been commissioned and funded by The Education and Training Foundation to develop and deliver a project to drive up standards in STEM teaching and training across England.

Ann Watson
Ann Watson

What will stem from this?

Launched at The House of Lords on October 21, The STEM Alliance brings together further education and industry to develop a higher level of competence, confidence and collaboration in STEM teaching and learning, to inspire and equip the next generation of engineers, scientists and technicians with the skills to succeed.

Activities the STEM Alliance will focus on include:

  • Identifying and sharing good practice and the best resources
  • Delivering a series of workshops and events for new and existing STEM teachers and tutors
  • Increasing the number of staff entering STEM training programmes and retaining them
  • Actively engaging with employers, including employer secondment and work placement opportunities for tutors and trainers

A STEM register will be created, with the aim of signing up more than 1,000 employers to provide work-based professional development for STEM teachers and tutors.

Teachers, tutors and lecturers play a central role in fuelling the passion of young people to pursue STEM qualifications and careers. Recognising the need for STEM teaching to keep pace with advances in modern industry, we are united in our aim to upskill, recruit and retain talented STEM educators – giving them the tools they need to inspire the engineers, scientists and technicians of the future.

We connect forward-thinking employers, further education, training organisations and professionals to shape policy; provide industry insight; share expertise, and inform the development of world-class teaching resources. It is an exciting time for the UK’s engineering and advanced manufacturing sector and this project will complement other initiatives aimed at aligning education with employers needs to ensure we have the skilled workers required to power our economy.

Together, we will help keep UK STEM sectors at the forefront of innovation. We need your support so please get involved.