STEM graduates

The truth behind the shortage of STEM graduates

There ARE enough science and engineering graduates out there – they just aren’t being recruited into technical jobs. That was the main finding revealed at the TARGETjobs Breakfast News event held in London last week, which was attended by around 200 graduate recruiters and representatives of universities and agencies.

Media reports often highlight concerns about a shortage of students studying science and engineering degrees and raise fears that this will damage the future prospects of the UK economy. Leading employers are also worried about this issue. Carl Gilleard, the outgoing CEO of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), said a poll of AGR members revealed that 95% of them believed there was a problem with recruiting STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates, and 45% thought this was a serious problem.

Schools and universities not to blame for STEM shortfall

However, Marcus Body, head of research at the event sponsor Work Group, which specialises in resourcing and recruitment, said the real issue was not a lack of supply from schools and universities. He argued that the key difficulty was that not all of the STEM candidates emerging onto the jobs market wanted to join a technical recruiter.

Mr Body said, ‘One of the big problems is that technical recruiters are just not making their opportunities sound exciting enough and, coupled with the fact that salaries are not that high, it’s not surprising that many STEM graduates look elsewhere for work.’

He also pointed out that screening out candidates with 2.2 degrees meant that thousands of talented scientists and engineers never made it as far as interview stage, and were lost to the industry.

Both Mr Body and the AGR’s Carl Gilleard agreed that there was an issue to be addressed with regards to the shortage of female STEM graduates. However, they believed that girls tend to opt out of STEM subjects at A level not because they can’t do them, but because they’re better at the humanties subjects than the boys, and go with their strongest subjects.

Find out more about Breakfast News and science and engineering careers