Businesses are competing for digitally savvy candidates to fill vacant tech roles. There are significant shortfalls right across the ‘STEM’ professions: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
It has been predicted there will be around seven million STEM job openings in Europe by 2025, yet qualified candidates remain few and far between.
In the UK alone there is already a 40,000 shortfall in STEM graduates. And more than 80% of businesses surveyed by the British Chamber of Commerce report that digital skills are now more important than just two years ago.
Digital natives make limited impact
It had been hoped that, once integrated into the workforce, ‘digital natives’ – those brought up in the age of digital technology – would help plug the gap. But, so far, their impact has been limited.
Unlike previous generations, digital natives have never known a time without widespread access to the internet.
But it’s becoming increasingly clear that growing up in a digital world doesn’t necessarily make you digitally skilled.
The issue seems to be that not enough emphasis is being placed on STEM studies in schools. Businesses must take action if this is going to change.
Tech businesses can affect change
Governments around the world have pumped money into projects designed to provide young people with the skills they need to carve out a STEM career.
Former US President Barack Obama committed to a $3 billion STEM initiative, while earlier this year the UK Government announced an initial investment of $320 million (£250m) to develop the country’s talent pool.
The problem is that most of this money tends to be targeted at graduates, rather than primary and secondary school students.
The scale of the STEM crisis has grown far beyond the resources and capabilities of governments. It’s also unrealistic to expect schools to tailor their teaching to reflect all the latest tech trends. What’s needed is a joined-up approach across government, education and industry.
Tech companies are ideally placed to lead the way in helping students develop a digital skillset from an early age.
STEM schemes in schools
Companies around the world are beginning to take responsibility for educating what they hope will be the next generation of STEM workers.
The majority of the $350 billion per year that US corporations invest in education is channeled towards STEM projects.
European businesses are equally committed to supporting STEM schemes within schools.
British Gas parent company Centrica is one of a growing number of major European firms to actively encourage more young people to pursue a STEM career. A recent poll by the company found that more than a third of students feel under-informed about STEM jobs.
Tata Consultancy Services has just launched its ‘Digital Explorers’ work experience programme which teaches inner-city students practical digital skills, such as coding.
The idea behind Digital Explorers, which will also run in Britain’s second largest city Birmingham, is to boost the tech talent pool by inspiring students from diverse backgrounds.
With 78% of its London attendees from the Black, Asian, and minority ethnic community, and a third of them girls, the programme represents a positive step towards building digital skills across a broader spectrum of society.
This kind of early partnership between business and education is what is urgently needed to ensure that young minds are engaged with STEM subjects and companies are able to access a much greater pool of talent in the future.