“The Mapping Australian higher education 2016 report just released by the Grattan Institute should not be used as an argument to undervalue the contribution that Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills make to our economy and future workforce,” says Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) Chief Executive, Innes Willox.
“In highlighting that science graduates find difficulties in obtaining employment the report potentially misrepresents the broader value of STEM skills.
“The STEM debate is not just about science, but it often gets reduced to this, and there is an important distinction between STEM skills and STEM occupations as illustrated by the following observation from the World Economic Forum’s Human Capital 2016 report:
Most new jobs will have a technology component to them. This does not mean, however, that all young people everywhere should simply move into core STEM fields or computer programming. What will be increasingly needed in the 21st century is good training in basic technology competence, asking the right questions, critical thinking, analysing concepts and leading a purposeful life – creativity, collaboration and non-cognitive skills.
“The fact that science graduates have difficulty securing employment does not reduce the importance of STEM skills, which are more pervasive. The difficulty that science graduates experience securing employment may well relate to their lack of employability skills. Technical skills obtained through degree studies are only part of what is required. Employers want graduates to have employability skills and some familiarity with workplaces to more effectively enable them to apply their skills in real workplace situations.
“Looking at the employment rates of STEM graduates today in isolation would be like assessing IT employability skills before the internet was developed – it is very much about the future and creating that future and putting STEM among the mix of skills graduates obtain,” says Willox.