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Hot topic: Maths until age 18

The government is considering making maths compulsory until age 18. Will this help close the UK's skills gap?

Kate Shoesmith, head of policy at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation says:

“Our data shows that employers across a wide range of sectors are finding it difficult to source suitable candidates, but skill shortages are particularly acute for roles where maths and science are fundamental, such as in engineering and IT. There’s no doubt that our education system needs to get better at creating a pipeline of talent.

More broadly, employers tell us that along with having the right attitude, they need candidates with a good grasp of literacy, numeracy and IT skills. Too many young people are missing these, and that can hold them back.

Hopefully the government’s move to make maths compulsory to age 18 will have the effect of encouraging more people to recognise and pursue career opportunities within STEM sectors, while also raising standards of numeracy among young jobseekers more generally.”

Yvonne Stewart, HR consultant at Dell UK says:

“The STEM skills shortage in the UK is a very concerning issue for the technology industry. However, I am not sure that mandating maths until 18-years-old is the most effective solution. We need to find more creative ways to encourage students to want to study these subjects.

One way to achieve this is through classroom collaboration, which has proven successful in the US. By using popular subjects to make STEM subjects more appealing students can see how STEM subjects can be applied across the board. For example, you can take a mathematical concept and turn it into a creative writing task that then becomes the foundation of an art project. Showing the progression of that mathematical concept across different disciplines is much more similar to how that concept is used in real life.

Businesses also need to work with education authorities to demonstrate the importance of STEM skills in industry. For example, we engage with schools with our ‘IT is not for Geeks’ programme, which allows us to work with high school students to show the wide variety of careers that are available in the technology space.”

Check back tomorrow for part two of this Hot Topic, featuring Concept Life Sciences' group HRD Sarah Taylor, and Al Rayan Bank's head of HR Ros King