The last 10 years has seen an increase in the number of students taking STEM subjects at university, with record numbers of graduates hoping for a career in science, technology, engineering or maths. But according to the Select Committee on Science and Technology’s 2nd report for the 2012-13 session, these STEM graduates lack the skills and knowledge required by industry.
Poor numeracy has been identified as the biggest problem, with students struggling to reach the required level of mathematical competence to succeed in industry. Universities have been urged to write their technology and engineering courses with this in mind.
A graduate embarking on a career in engineering or technology also needs to be highly literate and according to the CBI this is a real concern for employers. Engineers need to write reports, business proposals, research documents, internal memos, technical specifications and instructions. The WISHEES project is just one initiative to tackle this issue, providing an archive of good writing on STEM topics to help students and tutors understand what makes a good quality text.
With fewer quality graduates, the engineering sector is finding it difficult to find literate, numerate candidates but this is even more difficult for other employment sectors requiring engineers. The education sector offers incentives to attract good engineers into teaching, offering scholarships of £20,000 from the IOP and funding during training. Legal careers for engineers, like patent examiners, pay very well and try to tempt technology graduates with on the job retraining, flexible working, good career progression and retention bonuses. Engineering marketing and sales jobs also have to offer excellent packages to attract quality candidates and take several months to successfully fill vacancies according to a Manpower recruitment survey.
Studying science and maths does not mean narrowing your options or restricting yourself to a ‘pipeline’ for a particular job. Choosing to study science and maths creates the talent pool that UK employers need and leads to a wide range of career opportunities. It’s important that all young people, and their influencers, are made aware of this.” Kate Bellingham National STEM Co-ordinator 2009 – 2011
Technology PR and communications for the engineering sector offers an attractive alternative to the traditional engineer’s career path. This is a fast moving environment thanks to the pace of technological change and recent developments in the way PR professionals work with rise of digital marketing and social media.
It takes a talented individual to keep up with developments in the engineering sector, to grasp the implications and issues relating to a technology product and communicate technical data in an accessible and engaging way to a variety of audiences. They need excellent commercial awareness and an ability to find and express the relevance of a brand. The best firms value their talent and realize that it takes a particularly talented engineer to make a talented technology public relations executive. We therefore follow the progress of initiatives to improve the quality of STEM graduates with great interest.