Failure to act now on STEM subjects will cost us dearly later

Joachim Horn
Source: Getty

Reports earlier this month that technology workers will see the biggest rise in salaries over the next year will surprise few.

Programmer and developer talent is in demand, and to beat the competition, companies are willing to pay now to make sure they don’t lose out later. Fighting for candidates has become all-out war. This battle for tech talent has two natural causes.

Our world is becoming increasingly digital, so people who have the skills necessary to work and innovate are a priority for most – if not eventually all – companies.

And then we have the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills gap.

The British Chamber of Commerce revealed earlier this year that more than three in four businesses are facing a shortage of digital skills. The people they need to future-proof their businesses are nowhere to be found, and it’s having a big impact on company productivity and growth.

There are STEM jobs everywhere, and not enough people to fill them. It’s a major problem. Solving it starts in the classroom.

For children, preparation for twenty-first century work means engagement with STEM-based learning from the earliest possible opportunity. To fill the STEM skills gap and navigate our digital future, children not only need to be excited about STEM-based subjects, but confident enough with them to consider appropriating them for a career.

The role of teachers in drumming up passion and confidence in these subject areas couldn’t be more crucial.

But teachers need support. They need to feel confident with STEM-based learning in order to teach it effectively. They need to feel comfortable that they have the right skills and resources to deliver lessons that children will genuinely enjoy.

Government authorities and councils must play their part in providing the resources necessary to train teachers on STEM subjects that they may not have had the opportunity to learn before. Supporting teachers’ personal education in this way will empower them when integrating topic areas like coding and computer science into the classroom curriculum – fundamental to future work.

Technology companies too need to offer hands-on training and support for teachers with their products and services. It’s not enough to sell a product and claim that it helps in the classroom; vendors need to demonstrate what this help looks like and provide support on how best to make these products work within respective curriculums.

At SAM Labs, we work closely with local schools to run regular and bespoke workshops where teachers and students alike are taught how to use our STEAM Kits – products designed to address the need for artistic thinking within traditional STEM-based topics. These sessions include learning to build and programme everything from light-measuring photosynthesis experiments to self-driving remote control cars.

Teachers have a lot on their shoulders with preparing a twenty-first century workforce. But by working with educational authorities and with technology companies, a more creative approach to STEM education can be built that will help successfully address the skills gap, and give us the tools we need to succeed in the digital age.

After all, it won’t just be future programmers and coders who will stand to benefit from a stronger emphasis on STEM-based learning in the classroom. The approach will be essential for moulding the upcoming generation of students into the future engineers, scientists and creatives who will shape society in ways we cannot presently comprehend.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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