The UK science industry is facing a national shortage of highly skilled workers, an issue linked previously to STEM subjects being a less favourable option at A Level.

But the tides are changing; this year saw Maths become the most popular A Level, swiftly followed by Biology and Chemistry. Yet employers are still facing a significant skills gap. In response to this, efforts are being made to improve the employability of first-time job seekers, equipping them with the essential practical knowledge and work experience.HireMe

A recent CBI Education and Skills Survey1  found that the current education system fails to provide young people with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the workplace. It stated that 39% of employers have reported difficulties recruiting STEM proficient staff.

Industrial placements are an essential step on the career ladder in many science using occupations and are useful not only for students but also employers. Hosting a placement enables an employer to create links with universities which can offer longer-term possibilities including research opportunities and strong brand recognition amongst students. An employer can benefit from accessing an enthusiastic member of staff with no long term commitments. Not to mention that investing in industrial placements will provide the scientists of the future with the practical skills necessary to succeed in graduate positions.

Despite these clear benefits, there has been a marked decline in the number of employers offering industrial placements. The time constraints associated with recruitment is often identified as a barrier from hiring a new member of staff.

With the Government recognising the importance of closing the skills gap and attracting more science graduates into science careers, Cogent has secured funding to set up an initiative to retain the highly talented undergraduate talent pool. Research conducted by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills identified that only 11% of STEM graduates definitely do not want to take up a STEM career. Cogent’s placement service supports employers of all sizes in developing their placement service and improving the employability skills of students and graduates with the hope that more science graduates can secure careers in the sector after graduation.

Cogent offers a recruitment and managed placement service to all employers wanting to engage in industrial placements, and has developed extensive links with universities across the country to tap into top undergraduate and graduate talent. For employers who are unable to increase headcount, Cogent can employ the student on behalf of the employer and manage all aspects of HR and payroll thus removing all barriers to recruitment.

With this industrial placements initiative, there will be more opportunities available for students and graduates to gain the hands on experience they are currently lacking, helping to reduce the skills gap and inspiring more students to pursue a career in science. Employers taking part will contribute to the development of a future talent pool with the capabilities that the science sector needs for years to come.

Pauline Maden