Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects are not well subscribed when it comes to the millennial generation. Currently, fairly low numbers of pupils choose STEM subjects during their school years, which leads to lower numbers studying science etc at university and fewer STEM graduates. Given the importance of STEM subjects to careers in the wider economy this clearly presents a problem. The real issue now is how to attract more millennials to studying STEM subjects so that the existing imbalance can be corrected.
The important of engaging women and girls
Female students are very underrepresented when it comes to STEM subjects with fewer than 400 women studying electronics at university according to the UK Electronics Skills Foundation (UKESF). A number of reasons have been identified for this, including the language that is used to talk about STEM subjects, which is often off-putting for female students. UKESF said, “In general, women appear not to like studying electronics, but if you talk to them about overcoming challenges or solving problems, it begins to appeal.” There is also a serious issue when it comes to female role models in STEM areas - women make up just 12.8% of the STEM workforce and the bulk of prominent figures in this area are male. It’s also crucial to tackle societal expectations, which tend to condition women towards considering other careers, as STEM options are traditionally viewed as an option more aimed at men.
Attracting millennials to STEM
De-geeking the topic
STEM subjects often come with the ‘geek’ tag, which means that many students simply can’t see themselves doing it. So it’s going to be crucial to challenge perceptions of STEM study and careers to make them more accessible and remove the idea that you need to be a geek to excel in this area.
Making it relevant
One of the biggest issues that the industry faces is the fact that many millennials simply don’t see STEM subjects as relevant. This is especially so as study choices that shape future options can be made as young as age 12, when the real world influence of STEM might be difficult to appreciate. Many millennials want to make a difference and showing them how they could do that via STEM study is going to be crucial.
Taking it outside the classroom
The elements of STEM taught in classrooms are often not the most exciting and so perceptions of STEM are not great. So, it’s crucial to help younger generations discover the excitement of these subjects, whether that comes from parents or organisations working for a better understanding of what makes STEM topics so awesome – the Big Bang programme is a prime example of this.
Collaboration with industry
The opportunities for STEM graduates are made much more appealing by industry collaborations that offer sponsorship and job placement after graduation. For many cash strapped millennials who worry about how to transition from study to work this could be a key deciding factor.
There are many opportunities for millennials via STEM subject study – it’s time to start expanding the appeal of these topics to make them more accessible to all.