The queen of the UK’s data industry, Edwina Dunn, is backing a new campaign to show young people the benefits of studying science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects at A-Level and beyond, amid warnings that the UK is facing a “lost generation” of potential data professionals.
The launch of the “Your Life” campaign, backed by Dunn, the CBI, and businesses including Shell and Ford, follows the release of a report which claims youngsters are ditching technical subjects because of outdated career advice and pressure to achieve high grades.
The campaign is working with the UK’s 5,000 secondary schools to promote STEM, connecting schools with industry through trips and outreach programmes in a bid to educate both students and teachers alike.
The Tough Choices study examined the falling popularity of Stem subjects, collated by AT Kearney, the consultancy firm, Kings College London and University College London.
It found one of the key issues was inadequate advice from careers experts, teachers and parents, who were unable to properly explain the range of jobs that science subjects are relevant for.
The study concludes that youngsters view Stem as a career “dead-end”. Dunn, who has been campaigning over the issue for a number of years, said: “The information that is being given to students is often historic. People still think that taking maths and physics means you become a teacher, or work in a lab, rather than creating animations or building apps, or going into data science.”
“When moving from GSCE to A-Level, students fear that it’s harder to get a good grade in maths or science,” said Dunn, adding that the problem was more prominent among young girls.
If perceptions do not change, the UK is heading for a lost generation, Dunn claimed. “All these poor kids are going to come out of school thinking they’ve invested in their education but they’ll be without maths and science, thinking that business studies will serve them best. They will be totally unprepared for the job market. It’s bad for students and terrible for business.”
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