stem-a-levels
Training and Development

2015's STEM A-level results show promise for UK businesses

This is a contributed piece by James Eiloart, VP EMEA at Tableau Software

Between 2010 and 2015, the UK’s coalition government pledged to boost public understanding of STEM (science, maths, technology and engineering) subjects. This was part of a long-term campaign to inspire greater uptake of these subjects amongst students and tackle the skills deficit posing a severe risk to Britain’s economic progress.

The data chasm

In the UK, businesses have long reported a shortage of STEM skills in their workforce, a chasm exacerbated by the prevalence of data in today’s workplace. As organisations move towards a world of bigger, faster and ever more valuable data, the need for data literacy is critical. Without data literate employees, businesses will lose time and the deep insights required to remain competitive. However, as it stands, four out of five UK businesses are struggling to recruit the necessary talent (Model Workers Report, 2014). 

The results so far

Over the last five years, the government has begun to bridge the knowledge gap. For instance, last year coding was introduced as compulsory in schools across the UK, and as of 2017, statistics and data analysis will become an essential feature of the A-level maths curriculum.

As recent A-level results show, there is definitely hope for the future. This year, the number of students choosing A-level entries in STEM subjects was over 20% higher than in 2010 - the highest number on record.

This not only indicates that the government’s campaign is having a positive impact, it’s also great news for Britain’s businesses.  In short, it means that more students with strong A-level results in STEM subjects will lead to a greater opportunity to bring scientific, statistical and data analytics skills into businesses in the future – and kick start a rewarding career path.

Bridging the gap

And yet, while we’re making strong gains, more must still be done. Businesses, educational institutions and the government should work collaboratively to ensure that school leavers and graduates are prepared for the new business landscape. This process should begin in the classroom. Embedding data literacy in our schools and universities will help to spark interest and increase awareness of this vital skill.

The challenge calls for businesses and academia to work together. As it stands, universities’ approach to teaching STEM subjects do not always correlate with employers’ needs. Understanding the skills required in the workplace and ensuring the curricula better reflects this is key to future success.

Technology is also vital. Educational institutions should take a proactive stance and introduce cutting-edge technology that will equip students with the knowledge and capability to get quick, meaningful insights in the age of data. Businesses can be an important partner to schools by providing access to the latest technologies and basic training so that students are both more readily prepared for the workplace and exposed to the opportunities data analytics skills can bring to their careers.

This is an exciting time for opportunities in data analytics, as data use continues to grow across industries, roles and geographies.  Data analytics skills are now fundamental, a fact which should better communicated to our future generation.

The recent STEM A-level results are encouraging, but when it comes to preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s workplace, there is more work to be done. I welcome leaders from both the private and public sectors to join in this important and timely conversation.

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