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Half of UK teachers, tutors and students unaware of STEM career opportunities

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New research by Nestlé UK & Ireland reveals stark gap between youth enthusiasm for science and maths and employers’ ability to hire the STEM employees they need in the future

  1. Nearly four out of five young people (78%) would consider a STEM career but more than half (51%) say they know little or nothing about the type of jobs that are on offer
  2. Over half of UK science and maths teachers and tutors (52%) do not know what STEM businesses are looking for in recruits
  3. Nearly two-thirds of STEM-related businesses (62%) do not believe there are enough young people studying STEM subjects to meet future demand

28th October 2014 (London) - New research released today by Nestlé UK & Ireland has revealed a stark gap between 14 to 16 year olds’ enthusiasm for science and maths and UK businesses’ ability to hire the STEM employees they need.

STEM infographic

The majority of the UK businesses (62%) feel that Britain is facing a worrying STEM skills crisis and there are not enough young people studying maths and science to meet future demand. More than two-thirds of businesses (67%) working in a STEM-related field believe that there has been no improvement in the availability of appropriately skilled recruits in the past five years – with over a third (34%) feeling the situation has worsened.

Nestlé’s research, conducted by Populus, shows that nearly four out of five (78%) 14 to 16 year olds say they would consider a career in a STEM-related industry, with over half (57%) citing a good salary as the main motivation. However, more than half (51%) say they know little or nothing about the types of jobs that are on offer, with fewer females (41%) aware of career opportunities in a STEM-related field than males (58%).

Many science and maths teachers and tutors are also in the dark, with over half (52%) of those surveyed admitting that they do not know what STEM-related businesses are looking for in new recruits. Therefore, there is a clear need for an improvement in career guidance in schools and colleges and for teachers to have more direct exposure to industry.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of 14 to 16 year olds say that are planning to study STEM subjects in higher education. However, despite this initial base of enthusiasm for STEM subjects, research conducted by the Your Life campaign, which aims to ensure the UK has the maths and science skills it needs to succeed in a competitive global economy, has revealed a significant drop in uptake of STEM subjects from GCSE to A Level. Over 4 out of 5 (86%) GCSE physics students choose not to study the subject at A Level, while there is a fall off of nearly three-quarters (72%) in the number of maths pupils.

Nestlé’s research also shows how businesses in the UK are taking on responsibility for the promotion of STEM-related careers amongst young people in the UK. Over a third (37%) are taking an active role in promoting STEM skills, while nearly a third of those (29%) are opting for school and college visits as a way of engaging with the future workforce.

Fiona Kendrick, CEO of Nestlé UK & Ireland said:

“It is a promising sign that so many young people in the UK are considering pursuing STEM subjects in higher education and as a career. However, there is evidently a breakdown that needs to be addressed, as while young people are interested in STEM subjects at schools, the uptake of careers in these areas is low, with many saying they don’t know enough about the careers that are available.”

“We are committed to helping bridge this gap and are proud to support the Your Life campaign with a wide range of initiatives taking place across our UK sites to inspire and inform young people. It is essential that businesses play their part and I am delighted to see that more and more companies are engaging with schools and colleges to help highlight the vast and diverse number of rewarding careers on offer.”

Greg Clark MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science and Cities said:

"This research shows that there is clear need to do more to inspire young people to study STEM subjects and enable them to have the opportunity to access science and engineering careers.

“By bringing together the collective force of industry, academia and the government, the Your Life Campaign will help to provide this inspiration and these opportunities to equip young people with the skill they need to succeed.”

Edwina Dunn, Dunnhumby co-founder and Your Life Chair said:

"The strength of UK businesses and economy rests on the science, maths and technology skills of the next generation. For people choosing their path in life, taking STEM subjects at A level represents a future of infinite possibilities.

The Your Life Campaign aims to highlight the number of surprising aspirational careers of the future that will centre on science and technology skills. This will allow young people to make informed decisions about their future. That is why I am so please to be involved in the crucial Your Life Campaign."

As part of Nestlé’s commitment to the Your Life campaign, Nestlé will quadruple the number of both female and male STEM Ambassadors by the end of 2015, sending world-leading STEM experts to engage in schools and colleges to highlight exciting career opportunities.

Nestlé has also partnered with social enterprise MyKindaCrowd to offer online skills challenges, employability skills workshops and work experience to over 16,000 young people in the UK by 2016, as part of its European Youth Employment Initiative. In the first year alone it has already reached 9,000.

The partnership, which began in November 2013, will reach over 12,000 young people nationwide through STEM focused online challenges and 4,000 young people through employability skills workshops in 40 schools and colleges close to Nestlé UK sites.

Nestlé UK & Ireland is also planning to place up to 50 per cent of its 2015 work experience intake within technical roles. Throughout next year’s National Apprenticeship Week, Nestlé’s apprentices will head into schools and colleges to take part in STEM-focused lessons, inspiring young people and providing an insight into the types of careers on offer.

James Wilson and Nicole Chamberlain talk about their apprenticeship route at Nestlé.

Building on the success of their previous employment initiative “Nestlé Needs YOUth”, Nestlé UK & Ireland are also extending their commitment to help young people find work opportunities by collaborating with their business partners to create a new scheme called “Alliance for YOUth”. More than 150 companies from all over Europe will join the new initiative, making it the first pan-European business-driven scheme aimed at improving job opportunities for young people.


Notes to editors

About the research

Populus interviewed 103 decision makers at UK STEM businesses, 100 science and maths teachers and tutors at UK secondary schools and colleges, and 305 14-16 year old UK students, between 24 June and 7 July 2014.

About Nestlé UK & Ireland

Nestlé UK & Ireland, a subsidiary of Nestlé SA, the world’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company, is a major player within the UK and Irish food industry employing 8,000 employees across 23 sites.

In 2014, Nestlé UK & Ireland placed 41 graduates, 11 commercial trainees, 37 industry placements, 43 interns, 43 apprentices and 62 work experience students across the organisation. Nestlé have run over 105 events so far this year, with more than 250 employees having participated, reaching more than 1,500 people.

Through the Nestlé Professional Toque D’Or Competition, an additional 90 work experience opportunities were set up by Nestlé UK & Ireland for young people in the catering sector with key industry influencers such as chefs at The Dorchester.

We are proud to produce some of Britain’s best loved brands such as Kit Kat, Nescafé, Smarties, Buxton, Go Cat and Shreddies.

We are one of the UK and Ireland's food industry’s major exporters, exporting over £300m worth of products every year to over 50 countries around the world.

For further information please call the Nestlé UK Press Office on 0208 667 6005 or email [email protected]