The Public Accounts Committee, a cross-party group of MPs, has published a report which warns of potential impact of Brexit on skills and has urged the Government to address the gender imbalance in STEM apprenticeships.
The report found that a shortage of STEM skills in the UK workforce is one of the country’s key economic problems. In particular, it highlighted the gender imbalance in STEM careers, with only 8 per cent of STEM apprenticeship starts being undertaken by women.
Brexit was identified as an issue that may affect the already difficult task of ensuring an adequate supply of STEM workers. Giving evidence to the Committee, major science and engineering bodies highlighted Brexit could reduce the availability of core skills.
The Committee also argued that careers advice in schools is “patchy at best”. It added that the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, along with the Department for Education, do not have “sufficient understanding” of what skills businesses really need.
The Committee made the following recommendations to the Government:
- Following publication of the Migration Advisory Committee report in September 2018, BEIS and DfE should, within six months, set out the further steps they will take to ensure that STEM skills shortages are addressed.
- By the end of 2018, the departments should establish, and start to monitor progress against, specific targets relating to the involvement of girls and women in key STEM learning programmes such as apprenticeships.
- DfE should make better use of data on career destinations and salaries to incentivise young people to work towards careers in particular STEM sectors where there is higher need.
- By summer 2018, DfE and BEIS departments should review the membership of all STEM boards and working groups, and address any shortfalls in expertise—for example, in industry knowledge or experience in STEM learning and work.