You would be forgiven for thinking that A Level Results Day (Today, 18th August) was all about teenagers finding out whether or not they need to take out £40,000 (possibly more) of student loans to fund a degree. What we often neglect to remember is that these bright eyed and bushy tailed graduates to be, or more specifically their degree subjects, matter a great deal to the future success of our nation. This has never been more true, especially considering the UK’s recent decision to leave the European Union.
The United Kingdom has always been at the forefront of engineering innovation. Manufacturing is the back bone of a strong economy; powerhouse giants like Rolls Royce, Jaguar Land Rover, Dyson, all need technology minded graduates. Yet with ever increasing numbers of students heading to university, these big companies are crying out for more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates.
It isn’t just top engineering firms that need graduates; technology companies, at the forefront of innovation in computing technology are also struggling. The verdict from all this? Not enough people are going to university to study STEM subjects.
Of course, the answer in years gone by would have been to recruit the skills we lack from overseas. Yet now the UK suddenly doesn’t look half as attractive to young european graduates as it once did, especially given that some EU nationals have already decided to leave following Brexit. But to my mind, the problem with STEM is not just about recruiting for industries that are vital to our economy.
We have always had a very touchy relationship with STEM, especially mathematics. Despite the UK bringing the world mathematical greats like Isaac Newton and Alan Turing into the world, we seem to associate mathematics with nutty professors and boffins locked in darkened rooms. As a mathematics student (hopefully soon to be a mathematics graduate!) I completely reject this ideology.
Maths, and more generally STEM, are at the basis of the modern world. Everything from the device you’re reading this on, to the chair you’re sat in have made use of STEM at some point in their operation or manufacture. STEM isn’t nerdy, STEM isn’t boring. STEM is the creative forefront of British innovation, solving problems and designing world beating products to make the world a better place.
STEM matters. On this results day, lets hope that STEM can start to regain the place it deserves amongst students, and that we can start to fight the ‘STEM Gap’ that is growing in the UK.