It was great to see the Chancellor pledge fresh funding during his Budget speech to provide better opportunities for more young people to study STEM subjects and build the skills of the future.
New investment in maths will comprise £27million to help improve how the subject is taught in 3,000 schools and a further £49million to help students resitting their GCSEs. Schools and sixth-form colleges will also now receive £600 for every extra pupil that sits A Level or core maths. Philip Hammond also promised to increase the number of qualified computer science teachers from 4,000 to 12,000, a move worth more than £84million, and provide schools in underperforming areas with a £1,000 career development grants to help improve internal career services.
Additionally, £20million has been earmarked to help FE Colleges introduce new technical qualifications, T-levels and improve computer science teaching. A further £34million will also go towards teaching construction skills and £30million invested in new digital distance learning courses, which combined with plans to launch the world’s first national advisory body for artificial intelligence, is a great boost for those who aspire to and currently work in technology.
Any additional funding to improve the skillset of the UK’s workforce is a major positive and will help to bridge the skills gap that currently exists in STEM. There are real worries amongst clients about the future of UK skills and this will help to ease concerns and allow UK businesses to remain competitive.
However, I’d have liked to see more of a focus on improving the quality of teaching rather than just upping the numbers and more measures to drive greater diversity, particularly around gender and the uptake of females in technical careers. We’ve already pledged to double the number of female engineers who deliver contract services for our clients by 2020, but it’s crucial that businesses, education providers and ministers work towards a unified vision if we’re to deliver real change. The budget has given us important steps in the right direction but only time will tell as to whether these initiatives with marry together and make a real difference to the future skills pipeline, or prove a mere sticking plaster to the issues already faced by schools.
Fraser Farrington, Morson Group Tax Manager says on the subject of STEM:
“As a specialist recruitment firm with a focus on the engineering sector, it was positive to see the Government pledging support in bridging the skills gap that currently exists in STEM subjects.”
To read Fraser’s overview of the budget, click here.