UK businesses have warned of a growing skills shortage as they struggle to recruit qualified workers in science, technology, engineering and mathematical (Stem) fields.
According to new findings from STEM Learning, the largest provider of Stem education and careers support in the UK, the shortage is costing businesses £1.5bn a year in recruitment, temporary staffing, inflated salaries and additional training costs. Its survey reveals that nine in 10 (89%) Stem businesses have found it difficult to hire staff with the required skills in the last 12 months, leading to a current shortfall of over 173,000 workers – an average of 10 unfilled roles per business.
The recruitment process is taking much longer for employers, forcing many to turn to expensive temporary staffing and inflating salaries by as much as £8,500 in larger companies.
Employers are concerned that the UK could fall behind other countries in terms of technological advancement or lose its research and development credentials, while others warn a lack of talent could put off foreign investment in the sector.
“We are heading towards a perfect storm for Stem businesses in the UK – a very real skills crisis at a time of uncertainty for the economy and as schools are facing unprecedented challenges. The shortage is a problem for employers, society and the economy,” said Yvonne Baker, chief executive of STEM Learning.
The UK government is planning to invest over £400m in mathematics, digital and technical education, but businesses will also need to start investing in a sustainable pipeline of talent now, Baker said.