The UK is experiencing a shortage of workers within the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) sectors. So much so, according to the UK Commission for Employment & Skills, companies are struggling to employ professionals for 43 per cent of these vacancies.
In 2021, women accounted for only 10 per cent of the workforce. Therefore, in order to solve the shortage, professional and governmental bodies can work towards equalising the gender gap within STEM.
Here, we will explore how empowering young women from an early age and developing opportunities within the workplace can inspire the next generation of STEM workers.
To solve the shortage of workers within STEM, educational bodies can encourage girls to take part in these subjects as children. Throughout history, STEM subjects have been considered stereotypically masculine, and this has amounted to girls disassociating themselves from these subjects.
In fact, according to a report by the Department for Education, only 32 per cent of girls reported enjoying these subjects compared to 59 per cent of boys. Furthermore, only 33 per cent of girls thought they performed well in these compared to 60 per cent of boys.
This does not reflect the actual performance of girls in STEM subjects. The report shows that 68 per cent of girls achieve optimal grades (from A* to C) compared to 65 per cent of boys. Therefore, there is no question that girls and young women can succeed in these subjects. The next step is for schools to work towards making these subjects accessible and less divided between genders.
Once girls are confident in their abilities, schools must continue to pave the way for young women interested in STEM. To do this, schools can partner with universities and offer valuable workshops to students. This will create a route into higher education for young women when, according to UCAS and HESA, young women account for only 35 per cent of STEM students.
These educational partnerships will give young women the chance to speak to female professionals within their desired field before applying to university. This can lead to a number of roles within STEM, from construction management and aerial work platform operator to mechanical engineer and computer scientist.
In addition to schools, businesses can also benefit from partnering with educational institutions. Multiple corporations take part in graduate schemes throughout the nation, from NatWest to Cisco and the AA. As well as allowing businesses to benefit from finding their future employees, graduate schemes offer students an insight into the working life of professionals.
To employ professionals and solve the shortage of workers within STEM, businesses can consider training those within their workplace. Companies can offer their staff training schemes or educational courses to upskill in their desired area.
Training programmes can benefit people of all genders, and they offer women the opportunity to break into traditionally masculine roles. This will empower women at a time of economic uncertainty from the aftermath of the pandemic and inflation. In fact, at the beginning of the pandemic, 6 per cent of women were faced with unemployment compared to 5 per cent of men.
Society should continue to empower girls and women at all stages of life, from education to employment. This can lead to developing a passion for STEM from a young age and upskilling later in life. Over time, this can solve the shortage of trained professionals within the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics sectors.