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UK risks STEM labour shortage of half a million by 2023, research reveals

Over half a million job openings in science, research, engineering and technology over the next six years will need to be filled to replace growing number of retiring workers, according to research commissioned by EDF Energy.  An additional 142,000 new STEM-related jobs will also be created, leading to concerns that there are not enough candidates to fill the shortfall.

The Jobs of the Future research by the Social Market Foundation, commissioned for EDF Energy’s Pretty Curious campaign, analysed Government data and examined trends in the growth of science, research, engineering and technology jobs.

The report found that retirement of those born in the post-World War II baby boom years (between the years 1946 and early 60s) will generate the highest number of vacancies for Generation Z (those born in the mid-1990s to early 2000s) by 2023.

Computing services will see the greatest need for replacement demand with 66,000 jobs coming available to cover those set to retire. This is followed by head office positions (35,000 jobs), architecture (30,000 jobs) and education (27,000 jobs) – all areas that have an increased reliance on technology to help deliver their core services.

Fiona Jackson, head of diversity, inclusion and employer branding at EDF Energy, said, “The UK needs to be ready for a wave of baby boomer retirees. An example for EDF Energy is the ageing demographic of our existing nuclear workforce, many of which joined during its last major growth period in the 1980s. To recruit the numbers needed we have invested heavily in initiatives to encourage gender diversity.

“STEM-related fields like engineering and computing are currently male-dominated and the future demand highlights the need for more women to enter these fields. As an organisation, we have already increased our intake of female STEM apprentices to over 30%, and our Pretty Curious campaign is designed to address the issue by inspiring girls to get involved in STEM careers.”

EDF Energy says encouraging girls into science will be critical to filling the future skills gap. Currently women make up less than a quarter of the workforce in four of the five most in-demand industries for STEM jobs. These include computing, legal and accounting, and architecture.

This is despite girls continuing to outperform their male counterparts in A-Level STEM subjects, with a higher percentage achieving A or A* grades in 2016. However, there are significantly fewer girls than boys choosing STEM subjects beyond GCSE, contributing to concerns over the lack of graduates. 

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