The UK needs to spend more on developing sustainability skills and attracting young people into careers in science, technology, engineering and maths if it wants to remain a leading player in the low-carbon economy, an educational charity has warned.
The Smallpeice Trust, which runs residential courses providing 13-18 year olds with a taste of what working in STEM is like, estimates that at least 640,000 jobs will be available in the sector between now and 2017 as new firms start up and an ageing workforce reaches retirement. At least 400,000, it claims, will be professional ‘green collar’ roles.
A report researched by Warwick University MBA student Ian Lloyd and titled ‘Securing Tomorrow’s Workforce’ warns of a potential skills void. Although the number of STEM graduates has been increasing at a rate of 7.7 per cent a year since 2002, this is far behind the rate of general graduate growth at 21.7 per cent and significantly lower than needed to meet industry requirements.
This makes it crucial, says the Trust’s chief executive, Dr Andrew Cave, that sufficient investment is made in developing green skills and that young people are introduced to careers in STEM sectors.
“The UK risks being overtaken by international competitors,” said Cave. “The existing skills gap represent a major barrier for the government in meeting its low-carbon targets. It is therefore essential that the UK develop the STEM skills base at all levels to ensure it can compete with the likes of Germany and the US in this key market.”
In 2009/10 the Smallpeice Trust ran 30 courses for 1,700 school-aged students at universities across the UK. It also organised masterclasses in schools attended by almost 16,000 young people.