UK Survey of Young People on Attitude Toward STEM Careers: Cautiously Optimistic
For some time, industries that require STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills, have placed emphasis on recruitment. STEM-based skills are in huge demand. For employers looking to recruit for high-tech roles though, attracting, retraining and developing enough young talent can be tough.
In an ever-digitalised world, careers in this industry can be exciting and at the forefront of innovation. And according to edfENERGY*, by 2023 STEM jobs are expected to account for 7.8% of all jobs in the UK; the equivalent to 2.5m jobs overall. So it’s a key time for the industries to hire new talent and appeal to millennials and Gen Z workers.
At Get It Made, we have surveyed 1,000 young people – aged 30 and under – on their thoughts towards careers in STEM. This includes those who are at university, work in the industry already, or are in completely different jobs altogether.
Luke Smoothy, director at Get It Made comments: “We are passionate about inspiring young individuals within STEM roles, and wanted to delve a little further into their attitude towards careers in the industry, to really paint a true picture of the next generation of STEM workers, and identify what state the industry is in this regard.”
The next generation of STEM workers
The research, which was conducted in September 2021, has revealed that almost half (47%) of those aged 30 and under would consider working in a STEM-related field in the future. This is a significant milestone for the industry, to be at a point where it is well known and regarded as progressive and fulfilling enough to commit a career to.
Of those surveyed, one in four (25%) already worked in a STEM role and were strongly considering staying in the industry in the future. A small 15% said: “I do not work in this industry, and would not consider it in the future”.
With the changing world of work post-covid, and many industries’ staffing crises being in the spotlight, it is good to see that STEM industries are attractive to younger workers. Science and maths are core subjects in UK schools – and vastly around the world – so it is positive progress for these industries that interest has not waned, and these key skills and interests are there to fuel the economy and growth via STEM jobs.
Women in STEM and a female/male split
Many initiatives have been created in recent years to encourage more women, or female role progression, in such industries.
And the latest research suggests that this may be working; with one in four (26%) women aged 30 and understating that they would consider a STEM-related job if they aren’t already in the industry. “If we had run this survey just a decade ago, by comparison, I’d hedge my bets that this would be much lower, as it was notoriously a male-dominated space and likely off-putting, domineering or glass-ceiling structured for many women, so to see this shift is progressive,” adds Luke.
By comparison, just 17% of young men (aged 30 and under who were surveyed) would consider a STEM career that aren’t already in a STEM-related job. There are potentially multiple reasons for this result; one reason being, men now often have careers in fashion, hospitality or retail, all of which have been historically female-dominated. This is also something to celebrate alongside the women in STEM progression too, as society realises certain careers and gender attachments are merely stereotypes as opposed to ability. Alternatively, it could identify an industry issue of too much focus on attracting female talent, instead of retaining the male-heavy existing workforce.
Luke comments: “It is so refreshing and great to hear more women are considering STEM careers now. In 2021, equality in these industries is becoming ever more apparent, and businesses need to work hard to attract and retain women in STEM. The lower statistic of only 17% of men is a concern; particularly when this is of men who are already within the industry; it flags issues around role satisfaction, company rewards and clear progression.”
University students and school leavers
There are plenty of UK universities specialising in engineering or science for example, meaning there are ample students aged 18-20 hopefully looking to pursue a career in STEM in the near future, a rewarding feat for companies or startups in the sector.
But how can the industry continue to attract this talent and ensure there are enough jobs out there?
Our research highlighted that almost half (47%) of those aged 30 and under would consider working in a STEM-related field in the future. But of those in the younger 18-20 age bracket who are yet to start work in the industry, 15% would consider it. And sadly, of those that are already working in STEM positions and aged 18-20 (perhaps through university placements or apprenticeships), 46% aren’t considering it long term in the future.
The bigger question that this highlights is the attractiveness of STEM as a long term career. There is obviously initial interest, but with a high percentage of school leavers and university students sceptical about a future; the industry has a big job on its hands to incentivise and attract these young people.
The future of STEM workers
What does this mean for the workers then? Or for the STEM companies out there looking to hire the next generation of workers?
Essentially, there is an interest from those aged 30 and under, and particularly from women. But the survey has highlighted issues for commitment to STEM careers in the long run, notably from males currently in the workforce and 18-20 year olds.
Luke comments: “It’s not all doom and gloom for the industry. This survey of millennial and Gen Z workers has been very effective in showing that there is a vast interest in STEM roles within the UK. The key here for the big firms, startups and even universities and recruiters in the industry is to pave the wave for progression and ensure job satisfaction is high, so the industry doesn’t face an employment
shortage in the coming years.”
By using these survey results to make predictions for the future of STEM, we – businesses, universities and third parties – can ascertain what changes need to be made to avoid an industry employee crisis.
“I predict a shortfall of workers in the next 5-10 years within the STEM sector, if action isn’t taken to pave the way for attractive careers for the younger workforce. The industry itself has great support groups and initiatives, but as current employers, businesses and brands in this space, we all need to ask ourselves what more we can be doing. If action isn’t taken now to retain current talent and hire enough satisfied STEM workers in the near future, the industry will face an employee shortage. The knock-on effect of this when you are talking about science, technology, engineering and maths is that innovation slows, production and manufacturing slows, and the economy itself will slow. Time is of the essence, and I call on all STEM brands to focus on the 47% of those 30 and under considering jobs in our industry, and look to work together to boost this to a higher 60%+ in the coming years,” warns Luke.
We are manufacturing experts and partners, so our team at Get It Made are regularly inspiring and incentivising the next generation with grants for new projects, to help fund ideas and bring them to life. More information can be found here: https://get-it-made.co.uk/grants/
Get It Made surveyed 1000 Brits aged 30 and under in September 2021, via OnePoll.