The gap between the STEM skills required by industry, and those acquired by learners on their journey through education, is a key concern for any business which derives value from technological innovation. Across Europe, 40% of employers struggle to find people with the right skills, and the STEM skills gap shows no sign of narrowing. In the UK alone, a recent report estimated the annual shortfall in labour with engineering skills at EQF Level 4+ at up to 110,000.
Contributing factors include socio-economic drivers, such as the experiences of key groups of pupils underrepresented in STEM education and employment, and the impact of government policy. Some consider that these problems are rooted in our education systems. But the STEM skills gap is not one that schools and universities can or should be expected to close on their own. Technology businesses have a vital role to play.
Understanding the STEM skills gap begins with analysis of the experiences offered by schools, from the technology young children encounter in their kindergarten classrooms, to the certificates students gain at the end of their school or university courses. The extent to which those experiences prepare students for a lifetime of engagement in STEM, and create opportunities to work in STEM sectors, is a key driver for individual empowerment and economic growth.
Consider also that education systems must prepare students for jobs of the future, that might not exist yet, and the extent of the challenge becomes clear: it is not only about updating skillsets and knowledge, but also about helping young people develop attributes that are often highly-valued by STEM employers but difficult to assess, such as problem-solving, resilience and teamwork.
Technology businesses are accustomed to rapid change. In contrast, education systems change slowly. They are labour intensive, with an infrastructure that is expensive to maintain. Of course, every shift in the STEM sector cannot be mirrored by a change in school curricula. But even where education systems have identified the need to change – such as many countries’ introduction of computer programming to their core curriculum – the process of change itself is often challenging at every level, from large-scale teacher training projects to the affordability of hardware.
The vision behind the new Arm School Program is to develop partnerships and work with our partners to close the STEM skills gap, through a real understanding of the complexities and challenges of STEM education. Through collaboration with schools, education companies, edtech organisations such as The Micro:bit Foundation, and educational research departments, we are identifying initiatives where Arm can make a real difference.
Our program focuses on what really happens in the classroom, recognising that children’s school experiences are a powerful driver for change in closing the skills gap. We respect teachers’ passion and expertise, and it’s our role to support them as best we can. We are ambitious about our global reach but acknowledge that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The training materials and content we’re currently developing have adaptability and flexibility at their core.
The Arm School Program taps into Arm’s own ecosystem, drawing on expertise developed by other Arm Education programs. These include the Arm University Program, which provides college and university faculty with innovative teaching materials and technologies for computer engineering and related courses, and Arm Education Media, a subscription-based digital content hub which enables students and aspiring or practising engineers to keep up with the latest industry developments through online courses and textbooks.
If you're like more information on the Arm School Program, please contact our team who will be happy to help with your enquiry.