Tackling the STEAM skills gap

This is a guest blog from Phil Dunmore, ‎head of consulting UK at Cognizant
A recent OECD report has revealed that the UK has the worst youth skills gap in the Western world. 
Another recent report found that, in 32 out of 50 major UK cities, there were now more advertised job vacancies than there were people on Jobseeker’s Allowance seeking work. It is clear that there is a serious skills gap that needs to be filled; without immediate action, future generations in both the UK and abroad will fail to maintain the momentum of innovation for which they have become known in recent years. 
In the UK, much attention is focused on the innovation deficit and the lack of proficiency in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) disciplines. This deficit is high on the agenda of the UK government as well as the CBI both in terms of evoking more interest in the subjects as well as making sure teachers are well placed to inspire those they teach. 
The new GCSE in computer programming and cyber security , which launched last month, is certainly a step in the right direction. However, in order to excel in STEAM subjects, hands-on project and design-based learning approaches are necessary as they are more consistent with the learning styles we attribute to the millennial and younger generations. These approaches spark creativity, critical thinking and collaboration. They “pull” kids into STEAM disciplines by generating interest and confidence, rather than “pushing” them to do better in maths and science.
To encourage more graduates into STEAM careers, the wider industry that requires STEAM skills also has a major role to play in addition to government and education.
Communicating opportunities 
Companies need to better communicate the benefits of working in technology-related fields to attract more interest. Recent research for the Complete University Guide indicated that graduate salaries within IT have increased compared to an overall decline. This is an obvious incentive to move into this sector, as well as the sheer number of jobs available: the European Commission estimates that Europe might face a shortage of up to 900,000 ICT professionals by 2020. 
To boost the number of STEAM learners, some businesses are encouraging and supporting school-age pupils to consider STEAM careers. For example, we are working closely with the charity, Teach First. As one of the charity’s priorities is to encourage young people towards STEAM subjects, a number of our senior executives are volunteering in the classroom to support the charity’s emphasis on STEAM subjects. 
This early stage, collaborative approach is fairly unique but we expect to see greater demand for this, as more and more businesses start to realise the benefits of addressing technical skills’ shortages directly. 
Competing in an era of digital business
New technologies are revolutionising the future of work created by global and virtual environments made up of millennial workers and consumers. In order to succeed in training the STEAM workers of the future, schools, universities and organisations must emphasise the process of “doing”, encourage collaboration and interdisciplinary problem-solving, and support risk taking – as it is these qualities combined with STEAM skills that will be at the core of the change-makers of tomorrow.