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Government urged to invest in a long-term STEM education strategy

29th September 2021
Joe Bush

Securing the future, published in June 2021, called on the Government to invest £40m in improving access to careers provision for students in schools and colleges in England to enable more young people to understand the opportunities available in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers.

The NEPC’s submission, which brings together the views of 42 engineering organisations representing 450,000 UK engineers, includes this key recommendation from ‘Securing the future’ and outlines six urgent actions vital to ensuring we have the right skills and investments in place to both grow and decarbonise the economy. It has been submitted to government exactly one month before the government is due to deliver the Budget, including its spending review for the next three years.

Beatrice Barleon, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at EngineeringUK, said: “Ensuring that we have the number and diversity of future engineers to achieve the government’s ambitions around net zero and economic growth requires government to develop a well-funded STEM education strategy with careers provision at the heart of it. Our recent report ‘Securing the future’ highlighted that careers provision is still underfunded, limiting what schools can offer to young people. This must change.

“We want to see the government use the 2021 Comprehensive Spending Review to plug that gap and invest an additional £40m annually on supporting schools in England to improve careers provision to enable more young people to understand the opportunities available in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers. This small investment in the context of the wider schools’ budget, will ensure that schools have the capacity to fulfil their statutory duties in relation to careers provision in a meaningful way and help inspire the next generation of engineers. This is not only vital for the future of young people of this country and for levelling up, but also for the economic success of this country.”

The NEPC’s six recommended areas for investment include:

  • Follow through on the commitment to invest £22bn in R&D by 2024/25. This increase needs to start ramping up now to ensure it delivers the best returns for the economy and society.
  • Accelerate decision making and investment in low-regrets actions that are needed now for decarbonisation, including low-carbon retro-fit and refurbishment of existing building stock, prioritising low-carbon heat, and scaling up the electric vehicle charging network.
  • Establish a net zero delivery body to drive and coordinate progress across government and industry, provide systems level analysis, share learnings about what works, and build a clear, evidence-based vision for a net zero UK.
  • Urgently invest in an ambitious net zero skills plan that will enable rapid and affordable re-skilling and up-skilling opportunities for the existing workforce to meet the short-term skills needs for transition to net zero, as well as longer term skills needs.
  • Invest in a long-term STEM education strategy, including boosting funding for careers activities and teacher recruitment and accelerating the expansion of inclusive and high-quality technical education and engineering apprenticeships.
  • Embed long-term demand drivers into decision making on infrastructure investment to build back better with low carbon, resource efficient and resilient infrastructure.

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