STEM Outreach: Is it Working?

Real progress has been made in recent years in STEM outreach efforts, yet there’s still significant work needed today. STEM skills serve as the bedrock for sectors crucial to our economy, with engineering being a prime example.


Is STEM outreach currently working?

Over 7,000 secondary-aged young people were surveyed as part of research conducted by the Royal Society and EngineeringUK, revealing a decline in their engagement and aspirations in science since 2019. While interest in science careers has increased since 2019, there was a simultaneous decline in the percentage of younger students aspiring to pursue science beyond GCSE level, with almost a third of young people in years 7-9 already disinterested in science beyond this stage.

Access to career information and work experience has also declined, with 26% of young people expressing a desire to secure STEM-related work experience but facing obstacles in doing so. This is concerning, especially considering that T Levels require approximately 45 days of workplace experience.

The decline in students opting for STEM careers is attributed to multiple factors, including educational disruptions during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, outdated educational systems and training programmes, and a lack of career knowledge among teachers. UK Charity, Enginuity, commissioned research that indicates that only 30% of STEM teachers regularly integrate career information into their lessons, while 51% occasionally discuss STEM careers and 19% rarely do so. Among these teachers, 41% feel inadequately informed to guide students towards engineering careers.

Despite these challenges, a recent survey involving 1,000 young people aged 30 and under, including university students, industry professionals, and individuals from diverse occupational backgrounds, sheds light on positive trends. Conducted by London-based manufacturing specialist Get It Made, the study revealed that almost half (47%) of respondents expressed a willingness to explore STEM-related careers in the future. Additionally, one in four (25%) of those surveyed were already engaged in STEM roles and expressed a strong inclination to continue in the industry. However, a small minority (15%) indicated no interest in pursuing careers in STEM.

These findings present conflicting perspectives on the effectiveness of STEM outreach efforts, underscoring the complexity of this issue. Nevertheless, with an estimated 2,975,762 individuals expected to be employed in STEM jobs by 2026, it is more important than ever not to take any progress for granted and to continue prioritising the development of a robust talent pipeline.

It’s essential to continually monitor the success of STEM outreach because of the key role it will play in the future of engineering. This role includes:


STEM outreach can help close the skills gap

STEM outreach initiatives play a crucial role in addressing the skills gaps present in engineering and manufacturing sectors. As the future workforce, young people represent a pivotal component in closing these gaps and ensuring the sustainability of these industries.

According to a survey conducted by the Careers & Enterprise Company, nearly 89% of 1,149 professionals who volunteer at schools and colleges affirmed that STEM outreach activities are an effective means to bridge skills deficiencies. Additionally, 84% of respondents acknowledged that such initiatives contribute to diversifying the workforce, promoting inclusion and representation across industries.

STEM outreach efforts yield benefits not only for the broader workforce but also for individual businesses. By engaging with local communities and educational institutions, companies can actively shape the development of skills among young people, aligning them with the needs of the industry. This proactive involvement in skills development not only enhances the recruitment potential of businesses but also fosters stronger ties between employers and the local talent pool.


STEM outreach can help breakdown damaging stereotypes.

STEM dispels any misconceptions right from the start, ensuring that people find their right fit in the job market and that engineering isn’t missing out on great talent because of untrue stereotypes. It shows that engineering isn’t just:

  • About wearing hard hats, holding wrenches, or solving math problems with computers.
  • An environment reserved for white men with degrees, it isn’t limited by gender, ethnicity, or any specific level of ability.
  • A solo gig; it thrives in diverse, collaborative teams.
  • Confined to fancy offices or big factories.

Instead, engineering is:

  • About spotting problems, understanding their impact, and working to solve them.
  • Fueled by curiosity, exploring possibilities, and embracing the trial-and-error process.
  • Accepting that even solving the least complex of tasks is a win.


STEM promotes diversity and inclusivity in engineering.

As mentioned earlier, STEM education is pivotal in fostering diversity and inclusivity within the engineering sector. By involving students from various backgrounds and underrepresented groups in STEM education, we guarantee that the engineering workforce mirrors the diverse fabric of our society. Encouraging girls and minorities to pursue STEM subjects not only cultivates a more inclusive atmosphere but also injects new perspectives and ideas into the mix, igniting innovation and creativity which should always be at the core of the industry.


Instils culture of lifelong learning

Another compelling reason why STEM is essential for the future of engineering is its role in fostering a culture of lifelong learning. In today’s dynamic world, technological advancements occur at an unprecedented pace, requiring engineers to continually adapt and upskill to stay relevant. STEM education instils a growth mindset and a passion for lifelong learning, equipping individuals with the resilience and agility needed to navigate change and seize new opportunities.


What can employers do to support STEM outreach?

Employers play a crucial role in supporting STEM outreach initiatives. One way they can contribute is by actively engaging with schools and educational institutions to provide mentorship programs, workshops, and internships that expose students to real-world STEM experiences.

Additionally, employers can participate in career fairs and industry events to showcase the diverse career opportunities available in STEM fields. Offering financial support or grants to STEM-focused educational programs and organizations can also help bolster outreach efforts. By investing in STEM education and outreach, employers not only contribute to building a skilled workforce but also drive positive change in their communities and industries.


If you’re facing challenges in finding the right talent for your business, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re here to assist and would love to help you overcome any hurdles in your recruitment process.

< back to other articles