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Science and Technology careers "impermeable" says report

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Careers in science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM) are becoming increasingly difficult to move in and out of, according to new research published today by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

The report “Supply of and Demand for High Level STEM skills” suggests that technology is accelerating so quickly that employees’ skills can swiftly atrophy if they change career or fail to find a relevant job soon after leaving education. It also finds that, although there is currently no overall shortage of STEM skills in the workforce, certain sectors and regions suffer from skills “potholes” which hold back growth. For example, the vacancy rate for engineers in the East of England is nearly twice the national average, and architects have a vacancy rate of 2.5 times the national average throughout the country. Providing additional training to displaced mid-career STEM workers could help plug these skills gaps.

Simon Fathers, research manager at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, said: “In 2011, only one-third of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates worked in a STEM-related job, down from 45 per cent in 2001. With two-thirds of new STEM graduates now working in non-STEM careers, the opportunity cost to the UK could amount to tens of millions of pounds.” The report also found STEM vacancies are often harder to fill than other vacancies. Since the recession, 26 per cent of core STEM vacancies have been hard for employers to fill, compared with 22 per cent of vacancies overall. However, although some of these difficulties are caused by a lack of technical skills, others are prompted by a lack of more general “employability” skills amongst STEM specialists. UKCES Commissioner Toby Peyton-Jones, Director of HR for Siemens UK and North West Europe, said: “Careers in science, engineering, technology and maths can be some of the most rewarding and fulfilling around. But this report shows that technology related topics are moving at such a pace it is easy to get out of date or wrong footed as new fields open up and others become obsolete.“

“Although there’s no quick fix, employers can do a lot to help by ‘retaining and retraining’. The basic STEM capabilities are transferable, employees and employers need to keep an open mind to investing in alternative career paths –this way we can keep individuals from falling out of this critical employment market, where we already know there is a shortage of talent.” Other findings of the report are: Employers outside of London find it hard to compete in graduate recruitment. Employers are responding to difficulties of recruiting by working existing employees harder. Employers are concerned about recruitment difficulties as the economy picks up

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