UK unemployment has now hit a 17 year high with the total number of unemployed people now reaching a staggering 2.64m and the number of young people out of work remaining above 1 million.
Yet a recent report from the Confederation of British Industry, quoted in the Guardian, revealed that 59% of employers are having problems finding staff with STEM skills. The report also highlighted predictions that the situation will worsen over the next three years. In order to tackle the problem the introduction of more apprenticeships may be the answer.
Apprenticeships offer a paid alternative to those who cannot afford tuition fees or extended periods of time without pay whilst studying for qualifications. They offer young people seeking employment the opportunity to earn a wage whilst working alongside experienced staff to gain job specific skills. The Government is making efforts to tackle the skills shortage by introducing a scheme for businesses to develop vocational training programmes. From early 2012, employers will be able to bid for a share of the new £250million Government fund to invest in their training schemes and develop apprenticeships. However vocational qualifications such as apprenticeships have the perception of being a lower value qualification than the academic route. In my opinion, this is simply not true and this message needs to reinforced form an earlier stage in education.
UK businesses need to start working with schools and supporting initiatives to highlight the benefits of STEM subjects, and encourage younger people onto science, technology, engineering and maths careers. Experiencing firsthand the shortages in the industry, we encourage teachers to dispel the myth that these subjects are geeky and discover how fun maths and science can be in order to entice them to study these as part of their GCSE subjects. Each year we hold an annual Festival of Science and Engineering with SATRO (a charity aimed at increasing the number of pupils taking up STEM subjects) and provide funding, PR promotion and judging support for various school competitions.
Let us know what you think. What more can be done to entice UK businesses to offer apprenticeships? What do you feel could help encourage young people into STEM careers?
CBSbutler are again supporting the SATRO Science Festival in 2012