Businesses can help close STEM skills gap

Businesses can help close STEM skills gap

As students across Britain receive their exam results, more than two-thirds of teachers said they would like more information, training and guidance from businesses about Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM) careers.

Thousands of students could be missing out on pursuing careers in STEM because teachers do not feel they have enough knowledge of careers within these sectors, according to new research released today by British Gas owner Centrica.

According to the independent national survey, nine in ten students said they are influenced by teachers when it comes to deciding what to do after leaving school. But nearly a third (30%) of teachers do not feel adequately informed about all the different options that are available to students, with almost a quarter (23%) confessing they do not feel confident in their understanding of careers in STEM despite the widely reported STEM skills shortage.

With some teachers not feeling well-versed to guide students down the STEM path, it is not surprising that more than a third (33%) of students surveyed feel under-informed about STEM careers.

The route into a STEM career is also seen as a challenge with two-thirds (66%) of students believing it is difficult to get into and requiring high academic achievement. The majority of teachers surveyed also believe this to be the case, despite a number of routes offered into a STEM career through apprenticeships.

Teachers say business should be doing more to close the knowledge gap. More than two-thirds of teachers said they would like more information, training and guidance from business about STEM careers. Half of teachers surveyed specifically requested that businesses come into schools to give careers talks.

Catherine O’Kelly, industry development director at British Gas, commented on the survey findings: “There’s a clear role and need for business to provide more support so that both teachers and students have a better understanding of the exciting options that are available through STEM careers. 

“Innovation and technology are at the heart of our business and is part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. We should encourage students, especially young women who are less confident about pursuing STEM careers, to explore the varied routes into the profession which range from apprenticeships to degrees, and are open to all.”     

Kathleen Mock is a Data Science Manager at British Gas, and an ambassador for STEM careers. She has over 33 years’ experience in the energy, technology and engineering fields.

She started her career in the energy market at the age of 16 and has held a number of diverse roles since, including Business Analyst, Customer Service Trainer and Field Engineer.

As a successful woman in a male-dominated industry, Kathleen has a huge passion to inspire and encourage more women and female students to join or return to work in the tech world. She is a UK STEM Ambassador (science, technology, engineering and maths) and regularly does presentations to encourage young women to study or pursue a career in STEM subjects.

More recently, Kathleen has been actively involved with Centrica and British Gas’ network for women, Centrica Women Network (CWN).

Kathleen said: “Working in the tech world has to be one of the favourite roles in my career. I would love to see more women engaging with the tech working environment as it’s a place full of innovation, fun, new ideas and creativity.

“However, females studying STEM subjects often tell me they feel ‘petrified’ of working in the tech industry. Through British Gas’ Women in Technology network, we want to change these perceptions of the tech world and inspire, educate and encourage more women and female students to be part of it. Women have a great deal to offer in the work environment, not only through their technical skills, but soft skills too.”