Talk to anyone in the bioscience world and they will tell you that one of their major concerns is the dearth of young people coming out of schools, colleges and universities having studied science and technology.
Where, they ask in a world of Humanities, are we going to find the next generation of young researchers, the young people whose passion for science has been fired up and who will go on to university to make the staggering discoveries on which the industry relies? Well, governments and educational institutions have been thinking the same thing and in the UK a campaign has been launched to show young people the career opportunities that can be unlocked by studying science and maths. Backed by industry, the Your Life campaign aims to raise young people’s participation in science maths and physics A levels by 50 per cent in three years, seen as vital because the UK faces an annual shortfall of 40,000 workers with scientific and mathematical skills.
The campaign is being led by a group of leading companies including BAE Systems, Carillion, Ford, Johnson & Johnson, Nestle, Rio Tinto, Shell and Visa and supporters include Maths whizz Rachel Riley, Presenter of Channel 4’s quiz show Countdown and Polar explorer Ben Saunders. Edwina Dunn, Chair of Your Life, said: “Most young people in the UK aspire to a career in business, but very few are being shown the right way to get there. In a changing world dominated by technology, it is the skills learned from studying mathematics and science that will matter most. Yet these are exactly the subjects that the vast majority of 16 year olds are turning away from – put off by the misconception that maths and science aren’t relevant to their future. “The Your Life campaign has been created to change that image – to show that the mathematics and science students of today will be the CEOs of tomorrow.”
Such approaches seem to be working because more students are taking A levels in STEM subjects, according to results published by the UK-based Joint Council for Qualifications. Since June 2010, entries in subjects like maths and the sciences have risen across the board with:
- biology up 10.7%
- chemistry up 21.5%
- physics up 18.5%
- maths up 15.3%
- further maths up 20.1%
The results also showed that since 2010 more women are taking exams in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects with A level entries rising in:
- maths: up by 10%
- physics: up by 16%
- chemistry: up by 23%
- biology: up by 16%
Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go and widespread concern about the skills shortage was highlighted recently by a report from the Instructus Group, the UK’s largest provider, registration and certification authority for apprenticeships and worked based education. Instructus, which has worked with such names as BT, BAE Systems, GlaxoSmithKline, McAlpine, Santander and Nestle, said that although the economic upturn was welcome, the skills shortage remained a profound worry. The report says that over the next three to five years, UK businesses expect to increase the number of jobs requiring leadership and management (73%) and higher skills (71%). However, 23% of employers stated in a recent CBI survey that they are not confident of filling their more highly skilled roles. Instructus says that with increases in the cost of university education, apprenticeships are increasingly viewed as a genuine alternative with the potential to reach degree and even masters levels.
The company says that the old image of apprenticeships being solely for the young is no longer true; Instructus provide vocational work place education and employment to people of all ages and across all industry sectors and occupational groups. The Instructus report suggested some key points for bridging the UK skills gap: * There needs to be a recognition that people don’t stay in jobs for life. All work based education must fulfil the immediate need, but be entirely transferable to other sectors
* Training must become increasingly outcome oriented – this means development of individuals must focus on what they can do (dynamic skills) rather than what they know (cognitive skills)
* Training providers must focus more on employers’ needs and positive outcomes. They must also deliver additional benefits to their customers, including recruitment of appropriate individuals to bridge skills gaps, and consultancy services.
David Holland, CEO of Instructus, said: “We invite employers to enter into a dynamic consultancy process, the outcome of which is often a long-term strategic partnership. “Not everyone can afford the time or cost of university and frankly, there’s little substitute for learning in a hands-on manner from people skilled and experienced in the field, no matter what your age. “This training will go a long way to not only filling the skills gap, but ensure those employers educating their workforces now are essentially future-proofing not only their own business, but to a large extent, the continued growth and development of the nation.” “Most young people in the UK aspire to a career in business, but very few are being shown the right way to get there. In a changing world dominated by technology, it is the skills learned from studying mathematics and science that will matter most. Yet these are exactly the subjects that the vast majority of 16 year olds are turning away from – put off by the misconception that maths and science aren’t relevant to their future.”
Edwina Dunn Chair of Your Life
School seeks to inspire the scientists of tomorrow
One place where the message about inspiring young scientist has found a welcome is Liverpool where the first school in the UK to specialise in Science and Healthcare was recently awarded STEM Assured® status. The award for Liverpool Life Sciences UTC, which is in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, recognises outstanding work across STEM subjects. As the first school in the UK to specialise in Science and Health Care for 14 to 19 year olds, Liverpool Life Sciences UTC is now also one of only 20 colleges in the country to receive the award. Liverpool Life Sciences University Technical College gives 14-19 year olds the opportunity to take a full time programme of study specialising in either Science or Health. It brings together the University of Liverpool, The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital Trust and major local employers like Novartis, Redx Pharma, Actavis and Pro-Lab Diagnostics, offering students the skills and work-related learning experience to improve their employability within the Science and Healthcare sectors.
For Lyndsay Macaulay, director of enterprise at Liverpool Life Sciences UTC, the school’s determination to encourage young people to view science as a valid career option can only benefit the country. Lyndsay said: “By providing our young people with a gateway to globally recognised businesses through the STEM network, we can support and inspire them as they embark on the challenges of tomorrow.”