Diana Aldea, Marketing & Advertising Specialist, Shape Robotics

The UK’s economy is at risk due to the shortage in STEM skills - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - where there is a gap in professionals to take over existing vacant positions.

According to a May, 2018 report, the shortfall in STEM graduates is costing the UK economy £1.5bn per year. 400 HR directors and decision makers participated in a survey that highlights several key points regarding the evolution of STEM professionals in the UK:

  • Shortage of STEM skilled staff - 9 in 10 employers are having a difficult time recruiting skilled staff in the STEM industries leading to an average of 10 unfulfilled roles per business and a shortfall of more than 173.000 workers.
  • Longer recruitment process - involves more resources and increased costs that are challenging for the recruitment industry. As a quick solution for the situation, 48% of STEM businesses are searching abroad for the right professionals.
  • Education and experience mismatch - in STEM industries there is a large gap between the skill set valued in education and the one employers are searching for. In addition, not many schools are including STEM skills as part of their curriculum and therefore young professionals are not acquainted to the industries at all.

The core of the growing STEM skills gap stems somewhat from the education system level, from school to university. To compliment this, there is also a lack of professional training in the workplace.

It could be said that some STEM teachers are lagging in qualifications when compared to others teaching these subjects. This lack of qualifications tends to be higher in less affluent areas and schools:

  • In areas outside of London, just over a third (37%) of maths teachers and just under half (45%) of chemistry teachers in less advantaged schools had a relevant degree. In more affluent schools outside of London, the proportions are far higher for maths (51%) and chemistry (68%).
  • Shortages of highly-qualified teachers in these less advantaged schools appear to be the most severe in physics. In the worst-off schools outside of London, fewer than 1 in 5 of physics teachers (17%) have a relevant degree. In more affluent schools outside of London, the figure rises significantly to just over half (52%).

Danish company Shape Robotics’ vision aims for the continuous development of easy to use teaching robots designed to help everyone from younger school pupils to university students acquire 21st century skills and gain knowledge in STEM industries.

The company’s mission remains today: to make the teaching robot Fable as widely available as possible to students globally and to actively be involved in their development by collaborating with schools and teachers all over the world.

The Fable System offers learning at all levels from comprehension of technology in primary and secondary school, over mathematics and informatics in high school to vocational training programmes in industry and construction.

142,000 new tech jobs in UK by 2023

Research conducted by The British Computer Society reinforced the idea that the shortage of applicants in STEM industries is tightly related to the low number of students graduating with the skill sets necessary to fill these roles.

  • A-Level results released in 2018 show 15,149 students passed an A-Level in either Computer Science or ICT - down very slightly from 15,161 in 2017 despite there being more vacant positions requiring these qualifications.
  • The number of students passing Computer Science increased from 7,851 in 2017 to 9,772 in 2018 - a rise of 24% - while the number passing ICT fell for a fourth consecutive year, from 7,310 in 2017 to 5,378 in 2018 - a 20% decline.

Jobs needing STEM skills are projected to grow exponentially in the next few years. The UK expects to create an additional 142,000 new tech jobs by 2023; given the current gap in skill sets, hiring for these positions will become extremely tough and competitive.

Addressing the current STEM skills gap in the UK

Here at Shape Robotics we believe that learning STEM skills is much more than just attending class. It’s the integration and hands-on approach of several subject areas such as innovation, programming, robotics and real-world problem solving - building 21st century skills and STEM knowledge.

Robotics, just one of those areas has become an excellent example of how using technology in education (EdTech), can combine both mathematics and science subjects using a creative and innovative STEM approach.

The best part about teaching STEM skills is it has no age. From middle school to secondary school and all the way to university level, anyone with drive and curiosity can discover Fable and learn transferable programming skills they will later use to shape the world and fulfill real needs.

Why teach robotics?

  • Teaching robotics provides technical and interpersonal skills students need to meet current workforce demands, drive economic growth and solve what could be the world's next big problems. These skills are helping nurture every child’s potential to be a leader, an innovator and an inspiration while becoming the critical thinkers and creative problem solvers of tomorrow.
  • Students who participate in robotics generally have a good attitude towards science overall. The hard skills students acquire while learning robotics are connected to programming, coding, science research, engineering and technology.
  • Robotics teaches soft skills like teamwork, collaboration, communication and leadership. All of these are beneficial when integrating in the workplace and help to establish interpersonal relationships.

Robotics inspires a lifetime love of learning, creativity and logical reasoning that are critical to success in an ever-changing workforce. Educational institutions are key players in introducing robotics to students in an engaging way and teaching skills that will be necessary in many of the jobs that today’s students will occupy.

The Fable learning system has been developed to encourage and assist both teachers and students every step of the way. Shape Robotics offers lesson plans and teaching materials that aligns with various national curriculum. This means that the process of integrating robotics into classrooms can be made easy for any school or teacher around the world.

Diana Aldea, Marketing & Advertising Specialist, Shape Robotics

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