STEM companies look abroad to overcome skills shortage

Almost half of science and engineering businesses in the UK are seeking to recruit skilled staff from overseas because of a crippling shortage of indigenous workers, according to a recent survey.

STEM skills shortage
Companies in the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) sector report a current shortage of 173,000 skilled workers, which is estimated to be costing them £1.5 billion a year in recruitment, temporary staffing, inflated salary and additional training costs.

Skills shortages in the UK

The report from STEM Learning, the largest provider of STEM education and careers support in the UK, found that 48 per cent of companies were currently trying to recruit skills from overseas although, as we reported on Wednesday, the Campaign for Science and Engineering has found that more than 1,600 IT specialists and engineers from outside the EU were denied visas to work in the UK between December and March because of the government cap on numbers of foreign, skilled workers.The STEM Skills Indicator said that 89 per cent of businesses had found it difficult to hire staff with the required skills in the past 12 months, with almost three-quarters of firms having to turn to temporary staffing solutions.Businesses also expressed concerns over the future with 56 per cent expecting staff shortages to worsen over the next decade – a period over which the number of STEM roles are expected to double.
More than half of the businesses surveyed said they feared the UK could fall behind other countries in terms of technological advancement. Almost as many felt the country could also lose its research and development credentials, while others feared a lack of talent could deter foreign investment.“Building the future pipeline of skills will therefore be key to maintaining the UK’s standing in the STEM sector. Low awareness of the jobs available and a lack of meaningful work experience opportunities are identified by businesses facing recruitment challenges as key barriers to young people considering STEM careers,” said STEM Learning.
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Investment in STEM

The report pointed out that the UK government planned to invest over £400 million in mathematics, digital and technical education, but said businesses also needed to start investing in a sustainable pipeline of talent.Yvonne Baker, chief executive of STEM Learning, said, “We are heading towards a perfect storm for STEM businesses in the UK – a very real skills crisis at a time of uncertainty for the economy and as schools are facing unprecedented challenges.“The shortage is a problem for employers, society and the economy, and in this age of technological advancement the UK has to keep apace. We need to be in a better position to home grow our talent but it cannot be left to government or schools alone – businesses have a crucial role to play too.“STEM Learning bridges the gap between businesses and schools. By working with us to invest in teachers in local schools and colleges, employers can help deliver a world-leading STEM education, inspiring young people and building the pipeline of talent in their area, making it a win-win for everyone.”For related news and features, visit our Education and Schools section. Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory 

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