The government will fail in its aim to rebalance the economy away from financial services toward manufacturing unless it takes urgent measures to tackle a 40,000-strong annual shortfall in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates, the Social Market Foundation (SMF) has warned.

The SMF study – In the Balance: The STEM human capital crunch – used current industry figures to identify the magnitude of the gap between the home-grown supply of STEM graduates and future employment requirements. The economy, it suggests, will need 104,000 graduate-level STEM vacancies to be filled every year, but actually falls 40,000 short of this figure.

Most of the new jobs will be in engineering, which means that almost 20% of 21-year-old graduates will be needed in the engineering profession each year in order to meet demand. A huge increase in the number of STEM graduates in the UK is needed simply in order to replace an ageing workforce, the study has found, and it is critical of the government’s clampdown on immigration, which it claims is likely to exacerbate the problem.

The report urges the government to shift policy in favour of strengthening maths and science teaching at pre-GCSE levels and to reconsider its immigration policy.

While not directly mentioned in the SMF report, it will not have escaped the notice of many Umbrella Company Employees that STEM subjects are traditionally core disciplines amongst the UK’s skilled contracting community. The educational initiatives prosed by the SMF are aimed at the longer term; in the meantime, engineers and IT pros working through Umbrella Companies could find themselves in increased demand if the government’s rebalancing act is to stand a chance of coming to fruition.

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