Oliver O'Hanlon
16 July 2013

CBI Education and Skills Survey 2013

The CBI has published its 6th annual education and skills survey. Conducted in February and March this year, the survey took the views of senior executives from 294 UK employers of varying size, representing 1.24 million people. Respondents came from across all economic sectors including manufacturing, public sector, science/high-tech/IT and engineering, retail & hospitality, energy and water, banking and finance, construction, transport, education and professional services. Demand for STEM skills outstripping supply STEM skills are currently in widespread demand with 42% of employers preferring graduates with STEM qualifications. However 39% of employers that need STEM skills said they have difficulty recruiting staff at some level, with more employers (22%) challenged by the recruitment of experienced staff with STEM expertise. Overall, only 12% of employers expressed difficulties recruiting STEM graduates, and over the next three years only 10% of employers expected STEM graduate recruitment to be a challenge. However for employers in engineering, high-tech/IT and science sectors current and future recruitment difficulties were far more pronounced. 26% of employers in these sectors were currently experiencing recruitment difficulties, and this rose to 32% when asked about prospects over the next three years. The Science Council’s 2011 workforce survey identified the importance of the graduate pipeline and the need to stem the decline of graduates studying the core sciences, although there has been an overall increase in the supply of STEM graduates. While some studies had found that the stock of graduate scientists was steadily increasing, the number of UK-domiciled degree entrants in engineering and the physical sciences, in particular chemistry was falling. The research also forecast that whilst there may be a larger cohort of STEM graduates by 2014 these graduates are more likely to be international students. “Shortages of STEM-qualified technicians remain stubbornly high” Across all employers future technician recruitment was considered a problem by only 20% of employers. However 29% of employers in engineering, high-tech/IT and science said that they had experienced a shortage of STEM qualified technicians, and 39% of employers in engineering, high-tech/IT and science sectors expect this problem to intensify over the next three years. This is compared to manufacturing and construction industries where current shortages have been experienced by 24% and 8% of employers respectively. Recruitment problems over the next three years are expected by 26% of employers in manufacturing and 35% of employers in construction. It has also been forecast that upwards of 450,000 new STEM based technicians will be needed by 2024. Respondents came from across a wide range of sectors and highlights the fact that STEM skills are found at all levels across the whole economy, and equally there is great demand for people with science qualifications at every level particularly at technician level. Barriers still remain in recruiting STEM-skilled staff “Too many STEM-qualified applicants don’t arrive rounded, grounded and ready for work” 45% of employers said the most common barrier to recruitment was that STEM-qualified applicants do not enter the workplace with the “appropriate attitude and aptitude for working life”. The second most common concern was work experience, with 39% reporting that STEM-qualified applicants lacked general work experience. This correlates to young people’s awareness of the skills they felt were missing from their education, with 71% saying that a lack of work experience was their biggest weakness, followed by an understanding of the world of work, technical and communication skills, and self-management. Employers considered improving work experience opportunities to be the highest priority area for the 14-19 age group (the joint lowest priority area for the 11-14 age group), but 29% were uncertain as to how they could make work experience worthwhile. Other common criticisms included a lack of quality of STEM graduates, an overall shortage of STEM graduates, the prevalence of qualifications not relevant to business needs, and a lack of practical experience/lab skills. A Science Council report commissioned in 2011 looking at work experience opportunities for STEM graduates, found that the number of vacancies in STEM industries was lower than in many other sectors, and that STEM graduates were themselves less likely than other graduates to pursue work experience and internship opportunities. Careers services are not meeting employers’ expectations “Provision currently is not up to the mark” 72% of all employers surveyed said that current careers advice provision was not good enough, with careers advice in England ranked as the poorest of all home nations. The majority (61%) also recognised that they have a greater role to play in encouraging more young people to study STEM subjects. The majority (85%) of employers already had some type of link with one or more school or college, 64% of which are involved in providing careers advice and talks. But a willingness to pay a greater role depended on the size of the business with larger employers on the whole more willing than smaller employers. Employers considered improving quality of careers advice to be the 3rd highest priority area for 14-19 years education, behind providing more opportunities for relevant work experience and clear goals on literacy and numeracy. For 11-14 years education only 10% of employers considered it a priority area, with the main priorities for this group included clear goals on literacy and numeracy, self-management/personal behaviour, communication skills and technology skills. Employers considered ‘clear goals on science’ as the lowest priority area for both age groups.