Businesses are finding it more difficult than ever to recruit people with skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). In order to help bridge the STEM skills gap, Fife College has refreshed its STEM strategy.
The college will also be represented at STEM Scotland 2019, taking place on March 20th. This conference, hosted at Holyrood, allows STEM professionals to meet, identify issues affecting STEM training and demonstrate innovations in STEM education.
The new STEM strategy should put the College at the forefront of the drive to boost the region’s economy by focusing on the skills that are increasingly sought after by employers.
The College’s STEM strategy is summed up by the line “training the talent of today for the world of tomorrow.” It is a commitment to accelerate the development of STEM throughout the College and across Fife.
By supporting the drive to boost the STEM skills agenda, the College can help ensure that:
- Youth employment increases
- Productivity increases in the region
- Fife contributes significantly to Scotland’s growing economy
According to the Fife Economy Partnership, Fife’s employment rate has returned to pre-recession levels. However, the region – like all areas of Scotland - is still suffering from issues that limit economic growth, including a “chronic shortage” of skills in the STEM sectors. Over 60,000 people are employed in STEM roles in Fife, but far more are required.
The skills shortage is underlined by recent CBI surveys that show that businesses are encountering major difficulties in recruiting people with STEM skills at every level – from new entrants to train as apprentices, to people with more than five years’ experience of STEM-related work.
The CBI surveys also show:
- Changing technologies and markets demand rising levels of skills
- Demand for skills will be strongest in sectors essential for rebalancing, but businesses are concerned that the demand for skills cannot be met
- People with STEM skills are becoming particularly hard to recruit, and businesses expect these difficulties to intensify
- The recruitment problems can only be solved by business and education working together, but government also has an important role to play
STEM skills underpin innovation – they are critical to the economy’s ability to compete successfully in high-value high-growth sectors.
As more processes in the home and the workplace become mechanised and more products are being based on intelligent, intuitive systems, the world needs many more technologists and engineers. It is crucial that these people have good STEM skills.
The Scottish Government’s STEM Education and Training Strategy for Scotland has been another driver for the College to refresh its own STEM Strategy which aims to improve economic growth and prosperity throughout the region.
We work in partnership with Fife Council’s Education Department to ensure that STEM a priority at every level of education.
The College aims to ensure that STEM provision:
- Is of the highest quality and drives excellence across the College
- Produces skilled, work-ready, enterprising, digitally fluent and employable students
- Generates productive partnerships and relationships with business and local industry
- Supports the current and future skills needs of the local, regional, and national economy
At Fife College, we are committed to reducing the STEM skills gap. There are three core areas of focus to help this. These are starting from a grass roots level, to create interest in STEM subjects; creating partnerships with industry; and investing in apprenticeships.
Our objective is to create a world-class system of vocational education. We work with employers, schools, the local authority, and universities to deliver learning that is directly relevant to getting a job, as a mainstream option for all pupils in the senior phase of secondary school.
This should go towards addressing the gender imbalance in STEM learning and contribute to a significant reduction in youth unemployment by ensuring that what is on offer is relevant to labour market needs. Read more about the benefits of gender balance in STEM areas.
We’re proud to be leading the development of regional STEM Hubs to strengthen collaboration between partners including universities, schools and employers. Central to our STEM strategy is increasing diversity and opportunity for all. We will achieve this by ensuring equality of access to study STEM subjects, and attract people from underrepresented groups, such as women and girls, and those from deprived communities, into STEM-related careers.
The STEM strategy represents a huge opportunity in Fife – but in order to bridge the STEM gap encouragement must be given to more young people to keep studying STEM subjects at school – along with better education of teachers and career advisers about the skills required to succeed in this field.
Colleges provide a unique learning environment for STEM training, with hands-on opportunities to ensure that learners are ready to engage in the workplace.
By building and maintaining collaborative partnerships with local employers to upskill and retrain their workforce the College can help ensure businesses remain competitive and fit for the future.
Fife College also took part in Holyrood Magazine's STEM Scotland 2019, a conference at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh which explores the issues facing STEM training in Scotland.
I demonstrated Immersive Hybrid Reality technology, which is used to train engineers to work in extreme conditions. IHR allows trainees to experience a realistic job site, without the danger attached. At Fife College, this is used to train engineers in wind turbine maintenance.
The Scottish Government says: “Developing our STEM talent is key to achieving our ambitions of being a modern, dynamic and open economy.” Here at Fife College, we couldn’t agree more.