Today’s Times Education Supplement turns the spotlight on the teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and looks at how industry is working with schools to raise awareness and encourage more young people to follow career paths that use these skills.
The recent increase in the number of young people studying these subjects beyond 16 at school, college, and university is great news for the pharmaceutical sector - recognised as a key sector to boost UK economic growth.
But the CBI’s 2011 Education and Skills Survey showed there is still work to be done because despite this increase, supply is still not meeting demand either present or predicted.
An effective science and maths education is essential if young people are to be equipped, not only for the jobs today, but the industries and jobs of the future. The CBI found that STEM skills are in demand by employers of every size and at all levels, and employers predict increasing difficulty in recruiting staff with these skills over the next three years.
Our own research, carried out with member companies, highlighted not only the importance of the educational pipeline from schools through to graduate and post graduate education, but also the need for several generic skills such as the practical capability and ability to apply scientific and mathematical knowledge. These skills must be developed throughout a young person’s education. At all levels practical activities, including hands-on experimentation, must be used to aid and extend understanding.
A career in science offers lots of options. The ABPI’s career website features more than 75 case studies of individuals working in the pharmaceutical industry, and shows the wide scope of careers available. The ABPI, as well as many of our pharmaceutical companies supports science teaching and learning in schools and colleges. We also provide interactive topic-based resources through two websites www.abpischools.org.uk and www.atworkwithscience.com. These include virtual tours of industry laboratories and links between diseases and their treatment to science taught in schools.
Most of medical research in the UK is funded by the pharmaceutical industry. Many pharmaceutical companies encourage their research and development employees to become STEM Ambassadors, supporting schools in the delivery of practical science through science clubs and in the classroom, providing an insight into the work of an industrial scientist or engineer.
Science is the future and it is opportunity. In the pharmaceutical industry, it is about the very real possibility of playing a part in developments that can save lives and/or improve the quality of life. Unless we miraculously rid the world of all disease, there will always be vital work to be done and we will always need a steady stream of young, talented, people equipped with the right skills to do that work. The TES feature shines a welcome and timely light on exciting work in progress, the challenges we face, but also the opportunity to make a difference.
Education and Skills Manager, ABPI