Generation Stevenage: ‘Firms will rely on those with STEM skills in the future’

PUBLISHED: 17:04 18 November 2018

A group shot including Jacqui Piner, scientific director at GSK, and Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland, far left. Picture: MBDA

A group shot including Jacqui Piner, scientific director at GSK, and Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland, far left. Picture: MBDA

Archant

Science, technology, engineering and maths form the building blocks of the majority of significant industries around the globe at the moment, and as technology is likely to drive markets even further forward, the importance of building these skills will only increase in the future.

Generation Stevenage attendees: Stephen McPartland MP, youth mayor Ugo Umannakwe, mayor Councillor Margaret Notley, business development director at Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst,  Miranda Knaggs, manager at Airbus Malcolm Evely, and Keith Garden, deputy managing director at MBDA. Picture: MBDAGeneration Stevenage attendees: Stephen McPartland MP, youth mayor Ugo Umannakwe, mayor Councillor Margaret Notley, business development director at Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, Miranda Knaggs, manager at Airbus Malcolm Evely, and Keith Garden, deputy managing director at MBDA. Picture: MBDA

Many Stevenage residents have probably noted an increase in STEM-related activity and events over the past year and it’s largely because there is much greater demand from business for people with these skills than ever before.

In fact, many readers will have attended the popular Generation Stevenage event earlier this month launched by three of Stevenage’s largest employers, MBDA, Airbus and GSK. And later this month the first of those firms is hosting a competition for students and parents designed specifically to bolster awareness in engineering as a career.

It’s safe to say that STEM is everywhere at the moment, but why is it so important to Stevenage and the UK as a whole?

While we’re constantly being warned about the ‘rise of the robots’, the truth is that for the foreseeable future any technological breakthroughs – or even just maintaining existing status quo and treading water – will require people. In fact, according to research from Change the Equation, 13 per cent more people will be needed year-on-year if the UK is to meet the demand caused by the growth of technology.

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland trying out Airbus VR equipment at Generation Stevenage.  Picture: MBDAStevenage MP Stephen McPartland trying out Airbus VR equipment at Generation Stevenage. Picture: MBDA

However, even with the broadest definition of what STEM is, many organisations still struggle to find the skills they need meaning that when demand rises they could be left in a challenging position.

For three of Stevenage’s biggest employers, promoting awareness of the importance of STEM is a priority.

Airbus, MBDA and GSK are some of the world’s largest and most innovative firms in their respective fields and all rely on STEM specialists.

Firms in almost all sectors will increasingly rely on those with the technological skills in the future and it makes sense to develop more of these individuals when the sun is shining.

Demand has been significant for some time – MBDA’s Stevenage based resourcing team, for example, broke its annual recruitment record by September of this year after taking on more than 400 people in nine months.

However, not all firms are as successful. In fact, according to Engineering UK, more than 61 per cent of firms were not confident there will be enough people with the skills to fill STEM-related job vacancies in the UK over the next 12 months.

The lack of STEM skills is caused by at least three separate issues – that historically male-dominated and in 2015 just 11 per cent of UK engineering roles were held by women.

Secondly, there’s a huge lack of awareness of what STEM and specifically the ‘E’ actually means.

People would assume that engineers are out in the cold, working with their hands.

However, this stereotype isn’t true for the vast majority of positions and greater awareness of how problem solving and innovation are actually the skills that employers are seeking could help to increase the number of people taking these subjects.

Finally, there’s also a lack of awareness of the opportunities that are available. Claire Dicks, who works at MBDA and has helped to drive much of the recent local STEM activity, believes this is something that specifically affects Stevenage more than other areas, saying “Stevenage often gets a tough time in the press but how many people know that the Mars Exo Rover, was controlled by engineers in an Airbus hangar on Gunnels Wood Road? Or that the same site is one of the leading satellite developers on the planet?”.

Events like the recent Generation Stevenage launch and the engineering competition being hosted at MBDA on November 24 help to promote awareness of these types of opportunities, and they’re right on your doorstep.

MBDA is hosting an engineering competition for 13 to 18 year olds and their parents on Saturday, November 24, from 9am to 2pm. For more information go to Eventbrite.co.uk and search ‘MBDA Engineering Challenge’.

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