As students across Wales await their exam results, thousands could be missing out on pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM) because teachers do not feel they have enough knowledge of careers within these sectors, according to new research released today by British Gas owner Centrica, Britain’s largest energy and services company.
According to the independent national survey*, almost nine in ten Welsh students (87%) said they are influenced by their teachers when it comes to deciding what to do after leaving school. However, more than a third (42%) of Welsh teachers do not feel adequately informed about all the different options that are available to students, with more than a third (37%) confessing they do not feel confident in their understanding of careers in STEM despite the widely reported STEM skills shortage.
With some teachers not feeling well-versed to guide students down the STEM path, it is not surprising that more than a third (36%) of students surveyed feel under-informed about STEM careers.
The research highlights a gender gap around how STEM careers are perceived in Wales. A third of male teachers said that STEM careers are more for boys than girls, compared to 18% of female teachers. Furthermore, three in ten of all teachers surveyed do not feel confident or do not know if job opportunities exist for girls going into STEM careers.
A gender gap is also prevalent among students. The survey reveals that more than three quarters of girls (85%) said that STEM careers are not for them, versus 15% of boys. When asked, more than half of all students surveyed could not think of any female role models in STEM.
The route into a STEM career is also seen as a challenge with nearly three-quarters (71%) of students believing it is difficult to get into and requiring high academic achievement. The majority of teachers surveyed also believe this to be the case, despite a number of routes offered into a STEM career through apprenticeships.
Teachers say business should be doing more to close the knowledge gap. More than two-thirds of teachers said they would like more information, training and guidance from business about STEM careers. More than half of teachers surveyed specifically requested that businesses come into Welsh schools to give careers talks.
Catherine O’Kelly, Industry Development Director at British Gas, commented on the survey findings:
“There’s a clear role and need for business to provide more support so that both teachers and students have a better understanding of the exciting options that are available through STEM careers.
“We should encourage students, especially young women who are less confident about pursuing STEM careers, to explore the varied routes into the profession which range from apprenticeships to degrees, and are open to all. We know government shares our interest in this area and value working closely together.”
Centrica has a number of free online resources for KS2 and KS3 teachers to use in and out of the classroom to improve understanding of STEM subjects, which are linked to the national curriculum. British Gas engineers also visit schools to talk more broadly about STEM and their careers.
The research was undertaken by Atomik Research on behalf of Centrica between 11th-14th July 2017, on a sample of 1,401 UK secondary school teachers and 1,063 UK students aged 14-18 in accordance with MRS guidelines and regulations.