UK government failing to boost STEM skills

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A new report from the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed that the government's efforts to boost the country's STEM skills has been unsuccessful due to a failure to account for the skills that businesses really need. 

Meg Hillier, the chair of the public accounts committee offered further insight on the results of the report, saying: 

“It is all very well saying we need more STEM skills.  But as the NAO's report shows, the government hasn't done its homework.  It doesn't understand what specific skills businesses really need, and it doesn't know what the most effective way is of making sure people develop them.  Until government sorts out its muddled thinking, we risk wasting taxpayers' money on the wrong initiatives, and hindering our ability to compete on the global stage.” 

NAO's report did indicate that some progress has been made, however the government's ability to coordinate its efforts were seen as lacking.    

According to the report, NAO also found that the government had failed to collect “robust intelligence” on the need for STEM skills by businesses.  This has led to a mismatch in skills that is adding to the existing problems of the shortage. 

The head of the NAO Amyas Morse highlighted the need for better coordination across both the department of education and the department for business, energy & industrial strategy, saying: 

“The government faces a complex challenge in encouraging the education pipeline to produce more people with the right STEM skills. Some initiatives are getting positive results but there is an urgent need for the department for education and the department for business, energy & industrial strategy to coordinate plans and set out what they are trying to achieve. A more precise understanding of the challenge would allow the departments to better target and prioritise their efforts to deliver the STEM skills the economy needs.”

Preparing the next generation to take their place in our growing digital world requires an increase in STEM skills training that must be tailored to what businesses truly need and this will only be achieved through increased coordination between departments.

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