There’s no shortage of evidence of a dearth of suitable applicants to fill science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) vacancies around the world.
In the US alone, there are around 608,000 open computing jobs up for grabs, but only 43,000 computer science students graduated into the workforce last year.
Meanwhile, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills says it’s difficult to identify qualified candidates for 43% of STEM job openings.
More than six in ten UK business leaders and 68% of academics polled by YouGov in 2013 thought it would take more than ten years to close the gap.
So, what can be done to buck this worrying trend, which could eventually result in the stagnation of technological advancement in the years ahead?
Bridging the gap
The answer may be found in closer ties between the public and private sectors – in other words, tech companies coming into schools to assist with the teaching of students and showing the benefits of a STEM career.
Tata Consultancy Services has been doing just this since 2009 through its goIT programme. It originally launched in North America, but has since spread across the Atlantic – reaching Sweden in 2015.
The goIT initiative sees TCS employees visit schools to teach computer programming and mentor students in a bid to increase STEM knowledge.
Three schools in Sweden were the most recent beneficiaries of the programme, with thirty young people from Rinkeby School, Kista primary and Stockholm Science and Innovation School taking part.
The students were tasked with designing a human-centric app, with ten teams identifying specific societal health problems, evaluating ideas to solve them and then developing apps. Mentors from TCS were on hand to guide the process.
At the end of the eight-week programme, the winning team presented their ‘SHWIFT APP’ which was specifically designed to reduce the stress and frustrations of everyday life using a simple calendar to help users plan their day and be reminded of important health-related events.
The app also integrates external data that allows the user to receive real-time health information, as well as get advice on diet and exercise equipment.
A boost for STEM
In my time here as country manager for TCS Sweden I have never ceased to be impressed by the energy and practical problem-solving skills of the young people participating in goIT.
Our mentors were also impressed by the level of engagement from all teams. While it is regrettable that there can only be one winning team, I believe that every student who participated is a winner.
The most satisfying part of the goIT activity here in Sweden is the positive feedback from the students following the programme:
- 94% report that they have become interested in a career in mathematics and science
- 89% intend to now work harder in maths and science
- 65% profess to a greater interest in STEM studies
- 83% would recommend the goIT program to their friends
If this growing classroom interest can be transferred into an increase in suitable candidates for STEM vacancies then we’ll be well on the way to bridging the skills gap.