IET: Technology skills gap is a growing danger to the UK economy

Regardless of encouraging exam results, the technology skills gap is unlikely to be filled in time to avoid damage to the UK economy due to insufficient numbers of young people studying the relevant subjects, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has revealed.

Despite small increases in the numbers over recent years, the amount of students studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is still not enough to fill the widening skills gap experienced by the industry today. The situation is the same with the number of graduates from STEM degree courses.

As a result over a third of engineering companies report a lack of confidence in recruiting enough suitably qualified professionals to meet the needs of their businesses. A slight improvement in 2009 and 2008 appeared encouraging, however the increase in these skills is still not fast enough to plug the widening gap, particularly as demand is set to increase over the coming years.

Around 20% of science related professional jobs in the UK are filled by migrants demonstrating how significant the problem has become and how unmanageable it could become when companies are enlisted with large scale projects. This year’s exam results do show some hope for the industry as science-based subjects witnessed a resurgence in entry at 6th form level. Although Biology, Chemistry and Physics entries have risen, more needs to be done to meet demand.

Furthermore, with green initiatives high on the Coalition’s agenda, the UK will struggle to meet these needs without a step change in the number of young people pursuing STEM careers within the next two years.

Paul Davies, Head of Policy at the IET says, “Unless we see a dramatic change in the number of young people progressing into STEM courses and then careers, the UK will struggle to deliver the new technology and infrastructure needed for a green economy. The new 14-19 diploma in engineering is a big step in the right direction, and we are very pleased to have been involved in the development. However we still believe more can be done.”

The IET continually encourages action that can help fill the skills gap by showing young people how exciting and rewarding careers in STEM can be. Running a series of awards and scholarships programmes in the STEM space has helped inspire young people to pursue such subjects. Furthermore, hands-on activity days, called the Faraday Challenge, are run in over 200 schools across the UK every year by the IET. However, numerous schools are continuing to miss out due to a lack of corporate sponsorship. The IET urges the wider STEM community to come together, in order to rectify this problem now.

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Notes to editors:

.The IET is Europe’s largest professional body of engineers with 150,000 members in 127 countries.

.The IET dates back to 1871 and has offices in Europe, Asia and the US.

.For more information, visit

.Expert media spokespersons are available on request for interviews or quotes.

.Migrants in science related jobs statistics from UKCES 2008.

.Over a third of engineering companies report a lack of confidence statistic from IET polling in 2010 of 400 UK science related companies.

.The Faraday Challenge is for young students at GCSE age and is jointly funded by the IET and corporate sponsors.

.20% of young people who take part in the Faraday Challenge say before the day they are interested in a STEM career.