New research reveals that despite increases in both STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) university applications and employees joining STEM careers, the Government’s “levelling-up” target of reaching 200,000 by 2030 is “not likely to happen”.

To discover whether the initiative is on track, global heat transfer specialist Serck analysed three years of UCAS acceptance data, as well as Office for National Statistics (ONS) Labour Market datasets, to give a holistic view of the rate at which people are currently joining the STEM industry.

Serck says the UCAS data alone illustrated a 3 per cent increase in students opting to take on an engineering and technology course, and if this rate of growth continues, the number of UCAS acceptances will only be 36,350 by 2030.

As for the ONS data, when looking at mining, energy and water supply industries’ growth over the last three years, there has been a 7% increase in people joining.

While this is better than the university admissions growth, the firm says the need to encourage more people into STEM is still critical, as the number of people in these fields would only be 2,938 by 2030.

And it adds that the data highlights an increasing need for interest in STEM industries to increase.

John Codling, general manager at Serck Heat Exchange, said: “The gap is growing bigger with experienced staff close to retirement age and the pool of potential employees available for recruitment with genuine skills and experience in our sector getting smaller.”

Additional research conducted by the Engineering Construction Industry (ECI) Training Board shows that the majority of the ECI workforce is between 30 to 40 years old (48%) and only 14% are below the age of 30.

This highlights that more of the workforce are nearing retirement age, and not enough young people are coming into the industry to replace them.

Luke Mather, an apprentice at Serck, said: “This [being an apprentice] was better for me than university, but there is a lack of appropriate marketing/advertising needed to promote STEM on modern media.”

In February, industry groups welcomed the launch of the UK Government’s Levelling Up white paper which featured commitments on enhancing technical skills and boosting investment in innovation and research.

The document detailed a raft of “missions” to help more evenly spread economic growth and prosperity UK-wide, with one of the key aims a pledge that by 2030, the UK would see a significant rise in the number of people undergoing high-quality skills training.

In England alone, this would translate to 200,000 more people completing training annually, including 80,000 in the lowest skilled areas.

The Government has various plans in place to help achieve its targets, including employers being given a leading role working with further education colleges, other providers, and local stakeholders to develop new Local Skills Improvement Plans which will shape technical skills provision so that it meets local labour market skills needs.

Also, nine new Institutes of Technology with strong employer links will be established in England, helping to boost higher technical skills in STEM subjects

STEM champions say more needs to be done to continue to support participation in English, maths, and digital training to meet employers’ needs and support people to progress in employment or further study.

Mr Codling said: “To close the STEM skills gap it is critical that across the industry more apprenticeships programmes are put in place.
“At Serck, we believe these are a more effective way to address our skills gap.”