New guidance launched to help businesses close STEM skills gap

A new report launched today offers guidance for businesses that are looking to provide support and inspiration for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in schools.

The report has been produced as part of Project ENTHUSE, a partnership between businesses, charities and government that provides funding and support for high-quality professional development for teachers and technicians in the STEM subjects. 86% of STEM teachers agree that businesses should play a role in helping teachers understand what skills students need to pursue a STEM career.

In the UK, there is widespread concern that not enough young people are choosing to study STEM-related subjects after the age of 16. This is creating a skills gap that is limiting business growth and having a negative impact on the economy. To improve this situation, it is believed that young people need to be engaged with and inspired by STEM from primary age, to help them to build their skills and potentially envisage themselves moving into STEM-related careers.

The report aims to inspire companies of all sizes to get involved in providing support to schools and sets out a number of practical things that businesses can do to make a difference – in particular, by helping young people from all backgrounds to build their “science capital” - a concept developed by researchers at King’s College London. Science capital is determined by an individual’s science-related qualifications, their understanding and knowledge about science and who they know who works in a science-related job.

Helen Scott, science teacher at King Solomon Academy in London said:

“Discussing the link between businesses and learning in lessons can really help students see the real-world application. When students feel that they can relate their learning to links outside the classroom, there is a real boost in motivation for STEM. Where businesses can make a difference is through providing teachers and students with resources, which help both groups to enrich their lessons with context, careers and STEM awareness.”

Ian Duffy, community development manager at BP, one of the Project ENTHUSE partners said:

“Teachers are crucial in developing and inspiring young people to become the scientists and engineers of the future, but there is a much wider role that all businesses can play in helping teachers to make STEM-related subjects more engaging by opening young people’s eyes to their relevance to themselves and their own lives.”

The report gives guidance for businesses on where they should focus their support; for example, through hands-on learning, everyday science in the wider environment, the positive effects of STEM on humanity and giving real-life examples of how STEM concepts are used in the workplace. There is also practical guidance on how businesses can build a strong and lasting relationship with schools that is beneficial for both parties.

Hilary Leevers, Head of Education and Learning from Wellcome Trust, one of the Project ENTHUSE partners commented: 

“Businesses are spoilt for choice in how they can support schools, teachers and students. This report should help them choose the best approach to take, whether that’s developing resources, offering work experience or teacher placements, or encouraging their employees to become school governors. Businesses can also benefit because they will build up their future workforce and staff will develop their skills.”

Download the full report.

Publication of the report by Project ENTHUSE coincides with the launch of a practical guide published by the Royal Society and CBI. “Making education your business: A practical guide to supporting STEM teaching in schools and colleges” sets out five simple steps to help businesses to structure their work with schools and colleges. The Royal Society and CBI advise that businesses should collaborate with teachers from the outset, making them their number one ‘ally and audience’. The guide can be downloaded at https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/education-skills/

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