The Science and Technology Select Committee recently launched an inquiry into closing the STEM skills gap, after receiving repeated evidence that the UK is facing a STEM skills shortage. The Royal Society of Biology (RSB) welcomed the Committee's inquiry and submitted a response earlier this month, which has now been published.
The Society's response highlighted some of the key issues around uptake of STEM careers, as well as projects that are currently being undertaken in the bioscience sector that are working to address the skills gap.
Over the last year the Society and its Member Organisations have developed and launched several areas of work that seek to support the development of a skilled STEM workforce:
• The RSB and its Member Organisations have been working together to help provide support to teachers delivering STEM careers guidance. With our Careers Committee, the RSB have developed a range of resources that demonstrate the variety of bioscience careers students can enter.
• The Biochemical Society is supporting the STEM Insight programme which enables teachers to gain a wider experience of the STEM sector through placements in universities or in industry.
• The Microbiology Society facilitates interactions between schools, colleges and universities through their Antibiotics Unearthed programme where groups of students carry out real research, hoping to find the next new antibiotic.
• Science and Plants for Schools, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, has produced resources to support students and teachers to increase awareness of the career options available within the plant sciences.
• The RSB has recently commenced a project facilitated through grant funding from the Biochemical Society, it involves visiting new science teachers on PGCE courses to discuss careers provision and developing resources to integrate STEM careers in lessons.
• The RSB Curriculum Committee has worked to open up dialogue between school teachers and academics teaching in higher education to discuss the skills that students need to progress to biology hosting an event on the transition from school to higher education.
• Last year the RSB launched a new Plant Health Professionals Register in response to Government recommendations on developing plant health skills. The Society also recognises professional biologists through our wider registers, Chartered Biologist (CBiol); and under license from the Science Council we offer: Registered Science Technician (RSciTech), Registered Scientist (RSci) and Chartered Scientists (CSci).
• The Heads of University Biosciences (HUBS), Heads of University Centres of Biomedical Sciences (HUCBMS) and the Institute of Biomedical Sciences (IBMS) recently offered grant funding to support a workshop on improving the teaching of mathematical skills and physical sciences within the bioscience courses.
• The RSB's degree accreditation programmes are raising the standards of bioscience education in higher education institutions, and enabling students to develop the skills needed by employers alongside strong academic knowledge and practical skills.
The Society recognises the importance of technical education and training for developing a skilled STEM workforce, and in the upcoming months we will continue to engage with this policy area. Earlier this month, the Society submitted an individual response to the STEM Education and Training Strategy for Scotland, informed by a workshop led by the Royal Society of Biology in Scotland, drawing on many of the recommendations made in our response to closing the STEM skills gap.
The Society will also be responding to the Government's green paper on 'Building our Industrial Strategy,' which looks closely at the development of the STEM workforce in the UK and sets out a series of proposals on how this will be achieved.