Over the past few years, the drive to get more young people interested in STEM subjects and skills has been running full throttle, with more and more schools across the country – and all over the world – focussing on inspiring interest and nurturing talent.
One of the recent developments has been the introduction of the TEL – or Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment – a new exam in the USA designed to not only test STEM skills, but to find out how well students can apply their knowledge to real world scenarios. This follows a general trend towards integrating business and life skills into engineering courses to help with career development post study, with the introduction of business studies sections into many US engineering degrees.
Here in the UK, universities have been offering courses such as ‘Engineering Business Management’, designed to incorporate both high level technical knowledge and vital business skills in the same way as their American counterparts. For younger students, there are no current plans to introduce a test similar to the TEL, however there are many initiatives springing up in the same spirit.
This includes the development of the STEAM movement, which also originated in the States and aims to introduce not business, but art, into science and technology programmes. Although these might seem like two very disconnected disciplines, the creative spark is certainly present in both, meaning that when the two come together there is an exciting prospect of new innovation.
Sadly it hasn’t all been good news for STEM education recently, and stories such as the closure of this specialist tech college in Burnley show that there are still a lot of young people missing out on vital opportunities. That said, it is our hope that these ongoing schemes will gradually be rolled out across the country, allowing many more people to access them.
More positively, the results from the first TEL test – conducted in 2014 but only announced this year – show that the gender skills gap is getting smaller, with female students outperforming males. We have written in the past about the issues that the gender skills gap can create, both for the students themselves and the industry as a whole, and it’s excellent to see that the push to get more girls engaged with engineering and technology is paying off.
Acting commissioner of the National Centre for Education Statistics, Peggy Carr, is quoted as saying: “It looks like girls have the ability and critical thinking skills to succeed in fields of technology and engineering, and that is worth noting.” This is excellent news and, while there are undoubtedly still issues to address – the overall pass rate for all students, for instance, was only at 43%, something which will need to be investigated – overall this is another positive step forwards for the industry.
If you work in the engineering industry yourself in a contracting capacity, ICS Accounting can offer contractor services to ensure that you are operating as effectively as you can be. To find out more about how we can help, please contact us today on 0800 195 3750.