Closing the Gap: Early Engagement is Critical in Solving the STEM Skills Shortage

The STEM skills shortage in the UK is a growing problem that more and more professionals are starting to pay attention to

In a recent survey of 250 engineering professionals, conducted by MPA, 37% named the skills deficit as having the most significant impact on their sector. This concern ranked higher than automation, new materials and data. Considering the close attention given to each of these challenges within the engineering industry over the last year, it’s clear that skills shortages are a bigger cause for concern than many might initially assume.

Change is critical

Experts claim that the shortage of STEM skills costs UK businesses £1.5 billion a year in recruitment, temporary staffing, inflated salaries and additional training costs. With the number of new STEM roles predicted to double over the course of the next decade, it’s clear that businesses need to find a way to solve this problem sooner rather than later. One such method of encouraging more people to enter STEM industries is by engaging their enthusiasm in science, technology, engineering and math fields from an early age.

By engaging children in math from an early age, there is a higher chance of sparking their passion in these areas, which can go a long way to setting up a career in STEM fields. Math is a long term investment, as studies have shown that kids who perform well in math from an early age tend to perform well at school in STEM and science fields. However, the problem that many parents face is getting their children enthused by the topic, particularly if existing materials are not age-friendly and can make the children feel alienated.

STEM in the real world

Parents can help encourage their children to enjoy math and promote a growth mindset to help them feel capable of being successful with the subject. What is seen by many kids as an overwhelming and challenging subject, can quite quickly be turned into a fun one, with a few tweaks in the approach used to teach it. Keeping math visual and interactive helps a child to relax more and enjoy their time learning, creating a mindset that will help them to retain more information.

Additionally, using real-life scenarios when teaching can help a child to understand the necessity of it in everyday life. Children are naturally curious about the world around them as they experience things for the first time, so accompanying this with dialogue from a parent or teacher helps to turn real-life situations into learning opportunities. Furthermore, people in STEM roles often need to have a curious mindset: this way of thinking can be instilled from an early age by parents and teachers who welcome questions from children.

Engaging in STEM from an Early Age

The idea of engaging young children in STEM subjects can seem daunting at first. However, it can be easier than most parents think. Studies have shown that children learn math concepts more quickly when they have multiple opportunities to engage with the subject matter. While children will have various opportunities to engage in maths in the classroom, parents should look to take this a step further outside the classroom.

E-learning tools provide the optimum opportunity for parents to maintain their children’s engagement at home. Providing fun, interactive mathematical activities allows children to apply what they have learned and in turn allow them to grasp the subject better. As a result, their confidence in these subjects will grow and in turn will stay with them in later life.

It is clear that the approach to STEM learning needs to be rethought and approached with a long-term view. By implementing more engaging learning strategies, children will be set up to enjoy their learning experience more, and it can go a long way to closing the skills gaps within the STEM industries.


About the Author

Natalia Pereldik, CEO and Co-Founder of Funexpected. Funexpected is a team of developers, designers, artists, animators, and scientists. We create fun educational games to conquer math anxiety and spark the curiosity of kids around the world.

Featured image: ©Karelnoppe

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