Future-focused Generation Z aspires to STEM careers

Today’s school students are shunning the examples set by social media stars and getting serious about science according to new research from BAE Systems.

Female chemist pours liquid
The technology-led defence, aerospace and security solutions company’s survey of 2,000 16-24 year olds conducted to mark National Apprenticeship Week found that almost a third admired scientists more than famous Instagrammers, musicians and sports stars.Over 80% also believe that a career in technology will be important for the future, with a third looking to future-proof their career by studying science, technology, engineering or maths subjects at school.

Plugging into the global skills gap

BAE System’s findings come as the latest university admissions data is released by UCAS and after repeated warnings of the UK and global skills shortages in STEM careers. The UK's aerospace sector alone is a major engineering, manufacturing and service industry within the UK and significant on both a European and a global scale. Employing over 100,000 people directly and over 220,000 indirectly, it is one of the UK’s largest exporters adding around £2.8 billion annually to the UK balance of trade. As well as major players like BAE Systems, the sector includes around 2,600 firms across the UK, many of them SMEs.Both data sets suggest that the next generation and employers are beginning to heed advice, with subjects related to medicine, including nursing, seeing a 5.4% increase in applications over the last admissions cycle, which ended on 15 January.Applications from the UK’s 18-year-olds for mathematics courses also rose slightly by 0.5% after large decreases in previous years. Business management and social science courses saw the biggest rises. 

Passion, passports, purpose and pay

Digging deeper in 18-24-year-olds’ aspirations, BAE Systems’ survey reveals that science is one of the most popular career paths for Generation Z, alongside teaching, gaming and engineering.When it comes to careers, satisfaction ranks as highly as salary. The study finds that Generation Z is prioritising purpose over pay, with 30 per cent wanting to choose a career that will make a difference in the world.Two-thirds also want to work with emerging technologies and a quarter want to pursue a career path that will allow them to travel and broaden their horizons while continuing to develop their skills.However, the results also highlighted some of the perceived barriers to achieving this for a significant proportion of respondents, especially around engineering, which may limit access to STEM careers. These misconceptions include that engineering and related areas involve physically intensive work and are predominantly male environments. Trainee pilot Carrie Clark, who is speaking at this year’s Relocate Global International Women’s Day lunch, is keen to dispel such myths.Carrie has spent more than a decade pursuing her dream of becoming an airline pilot. She is also passionate about making aviation more accessible to people from all backgrounds and working to encourage a more diverse group of young people to become the next generation of pilots – particularly women – and find different routes into the industry.

Avenues to apprenticeships and a career in STEM

BAE Systems’ survey further finds that more than three-quarters of Generation Z would consider an apprenticeship, with nearly 60 per cent appreciating the opportunity to earn as they learn. BAE Systems recently announced plans to recruit more than 800 apprentices during 2020.Khadijah Ismail, a third-year Engineering Degree Apprentice in the BAE Systems Air sector, said: “My apprenticeship is exciting and diverse; no two days at work are the same. It gives me the opportunity to obtain valuable hands on experience – learning from some of the best engineers in their field – while earning a competitive salary.“I want to inspire anyone who's unsure about studying engineering or pursuing an apprenticeship to go ahead and do it. The possibilities really are endless and you will be given the best start to your career.”Richard Hamer, Education and Skills Director at BAE Systems, said: “It is great to see more young people considering a career in STEM and becoming more aware of the range of opportunities and roles available to them by studying these subjects. “Our apprenticeship programmes give young people award-winning on the job training, alongside prestigious qualifications, whilst undertaking vital work on some of the UK’s most exciting and nationally important programmes. From developing future combat air technologies to world-class cyber security solutions, engineering can lead to a long, successful and varied career.”

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