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Government does not ‘currently have understanding’ of skills businesses need going through Brexit

Government departments “do not have sufficient understanding” of what skills UK businesses need, or how Brexit will impact the supply of STEM skills in the workforce, MPs have announced.

In a report today by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), MPs have said that the Departments of Education and for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have difficulty in what STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) skills are needed for businesses around the country.

Changing technology means that there is a change on the demand of skilled workers in STEM sectors, yet the pace of change in skills development “often lags behind,” with the committee raising their concerns over whether the current public sector pay cap is impacting its attractiveness to top talent from overseas.

The report also criticised the government for failing monitor attempts to boost teaching numbers, claiming that the DfE did not know what proportion of those receiving financial incentives to enter teacher training — particularly in STEM subjects.

“While the department has examined the impact of financial incentives on the number of applications for teacher training, it still does not know how long the successful applicants stay in the teaching profession, and therefore cannot say whether these incentives are achieving the desired outcomes,” the MP report, led by Labour’s Meg Hillier, found.

The department’s progress on addressing gender imbalance in the STEM sector was also deemed “insufficient” by the committee, with MPs arguing that only one in 10 of STEM apprenticeships starts are undertaken by women.

The UK’s departure from the European Union will also impact the STEM skills workforce, the report said: with the future of current EU nationals uncertain, and the UK’s withdrawal from the EU increasing the complexities of gaining a right to work in the UK, the government is “not well placed to understand the extent of the challenge and ensure the supply of STEM skills.”

Committee chair, Meg Hillier, said that the benefits of STEM skills are “worth little” if they are not supported by a plan to deliver them.

“Government must take a strategic view, properly informed by the requirements of industry and the anticipated impact of Brexit on the UK’s skills mix,” Hillier said.

The committee chair added that the government needs to provide advice to pupils ensuring schools have the right skills in the classroom and STEM-focused institutions are properly supported.

Hillier commented: “This is a challenging and long-term project but there are practical steps the Government can and should be taking now."


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