Plugging the STEM Skills Gap

Gaurav Bijlani PCQI, Senior Production Test Engineer at Hanover Displays, speaks about the importance of encouraging more students into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers.

According to the Manufacturing in 2020 report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the UK manufacturing industry accounts for 10 per cent of the UK economy. “However, a staggering 81 per cent of employers surveyed in the sector found it difficult to recruit skilled staff”, says Gaurav Bijlani, PCQI, Senior Production Test Engineer at Hanover Displays, a manufacturer of passenger information services for the public transport industry.

According to Ted Mellor, Senior Manufacturing Consultant at software company Sage Group, it still seems as though manufacturing is deemed as an unattractive industry for graduates and apprentices, when in fact the average salary for the industry is 13 per cent above country average employment salary. “Why people aren’t stampeding towards a rewarding, interesting and innovative industry is confusing,” he adds. “Maybe that’s where the government and industry bodies can help in promoting manufacturing as a viable career path for new talent?”

“As a nation, we will face local and international challenges due to the skills shortage,” Bijlani suggests. According to a report by analytics firm Emsi, from 2003-2017, STEM occupations increased by 20 per cent in comparison to 15.5 per cent for non-STEM roles. Furthermore, demand for STEM jobs looks set to continue outpacing non-STEM in the foreseeable future. Emsi’s projections show a growth of 3.1 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively from 2018 to 2026.

Recently, Bijlani accepted an opportunity to help to address the skills gap by speaking at a careers fair and becoming a STEM Ambassador. East Sussex County Council have a careers programme aimed at 7-11-year-olds, which encourages children to explore a wide array of subjects by directly speaking to professionals.

“Being the only engineering champion in the room at the careers fair, I went to the event with some products manufactured by Hanover Displays and a video of a cobot – a collaborative robot testing our products at our manufacturing site in Lewes, East Sussex,” Bijlani said. “Some of the students were encouraged to come and speak to me about my career choice, my educational background, what motivated me to join this sector and how they could pursue a career in engineering.”

Later this year, Bijlani will be holding an event as a STEM Ambassador to help encourage the next generation to look at engineering and quality assurance as a potential career path.

Bijlani says: “If anyone is thinking of becoming a STEM ambassador, I can assure you that it is a very rewarding feeling and it counts towards your continuous professional development.”

The CQI has partnered with STEM Learning – the UK’s largest provider of education and careers support in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) – to bring quality into the classroom.

If you’re a UK-based CQI member, we would like to invite you to become a STEM ambassador, and part of a network of 30,000 other volunteers.

Your role will be to encourage and inspire the next generation to choose quality as a STEM-related career. Being an ambassador is not just restricted to schools either, you can also go to STEM clubs and youth and community groups to give presentations and careers talks.

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