STEM women key to skills crisis


Prospect union offers solutions to engineering skills crisis

Prospect union is taking its message on the need to recruit more women to meet the desperate shortage of skilled engineers and scientists to the Conservative Party conference with a fringe meeting on Monday lunchtime.

The UK will need an additional 87,000 graduate level engineers each year between now and 2020, but the higher education system is only producing 46,000 engineering graduates annually, according to a report from thinktank IPPR that illustrates the scale of the problem.

The UK also has the lowest proportion of female engineering professionals in Europe.

Sue Ferns, Prospect’s director of communications and research, said: “We welcome this latest IPPR report, which illustrates the scale of a problem which Prospect has been highlighting for years. The issue is to find solutions.

“We agree with the IPPR that this gap could be closed if more young women opted for careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

“But more also needs to be done to ensure that women are supported and can progress in STEM careers, including those wanting to return to employment after a career break. This will best be achieved by governments, employers, unions and professional bodies working together.”

Prospect represents 50,000 specialists in science, engineering and technology and is well-placed to offer practical ideas on the way forward. The union has been campaigning for politicians of all parties to sign up to support a Prospect Pledge on women in STEM. At present, just 13% of women work in STEM careers and the union is asking them to commit to increasing this to 30% by 2020.

The fringe meeting, ‘Raising our sights: Realising the potential of a more diverse STEM workforce’ will be on Monday 29 September, from 12pm-1.30pm, at the Telford Room, IET, Austin Court, 80 Cambridge St, Birmingham B1 2NP.

Richard Earp, from the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s education and skills policy panel, will chair the meeting.

Speakers include David Willetts MP; Mike Clancy, Prospect general secretary; Sarah Main, director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering and Dr Anna Zecharia, director Science Grrl.

Visit to see Prospect’s calendar featuring women in male-dominated industries.