The 2014 Report Australia’s STEM Workforce: a survey of employers conducted by Deloitte Access Economics, has a series of key findings that reveal the role of STEM skills in Australian businesses.
With STEM-related industries changing rapidly, the report proposes the question of whether or not there is an adequate supply of people with such skills and henceforth, whether the skill needs that businesses demand are being adequately met.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates are in demand in Australian workplaces. In the survey of the employers, over 80% of the survey respondents emphasized the value of STEM qualifications even if the qualifications were not necessary to carrying out the role. This demand exists because STEM skills are seen to correlate with higher capabilities in “active learning, critical thinking, complex problem-solving and creative problem-solving.” At the same time, many STEM graduates were said to possess shortfalls in “soft skills” such as interpersonal skills as well as issues in literacy and self-management.
Results indicating the skill rating (average) between STEM and non-STEM employees.
In addressing the issues, businesses want higher education institutions to implement methods that would see students develop work-relevant skills and also recommended tailoring undergraduate courses to be business-relevant. Work experience/placements were also put forward as an effective way to assist students in acquiring the necessary workplace skills.
Both globally, and in Australia, there is an increased focus on the importance of STEM skills, and it is projected that STEM-qualified individuals will play a crucial role in shaping the future of the Australian economy. This general expectation is supported by 45.1% of respondents expecting workplace requirements for STEM-qualified employees will increase in the coming 5-10 years, 8.8% expecting a decline and 36.0% expecting similar levels of staffing.
Other countries are both a source of supply and in competition for STEM-qualified people, and the report states that domestically and internationally, the onus should be on ensuring an adequate supply of STEM skills. Australia should use policies from other countries in considering and providing direction to how we should develop our own national STEM strategy.
Deloitte Access Economics was commissioned by the Australian Office of the Chief Scientist to seek an understand of the skills requirements of Australian businesses with regards to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).