At the Big Wide World blog, Charlie Ball from the UK's Higher Education Careers Services Unit says that while almost everyone agrees that more science graduates are needed and that more science teachers need to encourage students to go into STEM fields, it's not entirely clear what is meant by 'needing more.' New data shows that initiatives geared toward getting young people into science aren't working, Ball says. Despite complaints that there aren't enough people doing research, there's also a high number of unemployed science grads and PhDs. "This is an issue because these are the figures that will be going onto the websites that the A-level students of the future will be using to check the employment prospects of the courses they're going to be paying a lot of money for," Ball says. "When they see the outcomes for science courses compared to other subject that aren't suffering a 'shortage', some of them are going to wonder what on earth the fuss is about." The answer isn't that there's a shortage of scientists, but that there's a shortage of good scientists, he adds. When it's said that there's a need for more science grads, does that mean biologists, chemists, or other disciplines? Do the students need more technical skills or more "employability" skills? Is it a need for more PhDs, or more master's students? It's important for the scientific community to clarify what it means when it says that there's a shortage of science grads, Ball says. "Now, does anyone know a group of people who like detail, wrangling complex problems and coming up with practical solutions, who don't take statements uncritically at face value, who are unafraid of hard work and who would really, really like UK science to thrive, to tackle these questions? Hmm, maybe we do need more scientists after all," he adds.
STEM the Tide
Jul 21, 2011