Teachers desperately need support from Britain’s businesses to close the STEM skills gap

According to a new survey…

 As students across Britain await their exam results, thousands could be missing out on pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (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, Britain’s largest energy and services company.

  • Majority of students surveyed said their post-school choices are influenced by teachers
  • Teachers do not feel well-enough informed about STEM careers
  • Male teachers more likely to see STEM careers as better suited to boys than girls
  • Business should do more to support teachers with information so that students can benefit from their advice

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. However, nearly a third (30 per cent) of teachers do not feel adequately informed about all the different options that are available to students, with almost a quarter (23 per cent) 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 per cent) of students surveyed feel under-informed about STEM careers.

The research highlights a gender gap around how STEM careers are perceived. Nearly a third of male teachers (29 per cent) said that STEM careers are more for boys than girls, compared to 16 per cent of female teachers. Furthermore, nearly a quarter of all teachers surveyed (23 per cent) do not feel confident or do not know if job opportunities exist for girls going into STEM careers.

A gender gap is also prevalent among students. The survey reveals that more than a quarter of girls (27 per cent) said that STEM careers are not for them, versus 14 per cent of boys. When asked, nearly half of all students surveyed could not think of any female role models in STEM.

The route into a STEM career is also seen as a challenge with two-thirds (66 per cent) 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.”    

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