STEM skills: Mind the gap!

We often hear from policymakers, media and employer groups that the EU faces a shortage in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills. However, what we rarely hear are specific details of what those skills shortages actually are and — just as crucially — where they are.

Businesses are especially concerned about the outlook. Pre-COVID, over half expected the shortage to worsen over the next 10 years, with expansion in the sector set to nearly double the number of new STEM roles required.

With many European schools and universities closed since mid-March, students have had to adapt to online and distance learning. It is too soon to assess whether students will fall behind in STEMs and other skills, but employers are already worried that the COVID crisis could slow Europe’s technological advancement due to a lack of future talent.

Post-COVID, re-establishing a strong pipeline of skills will be key to maintaining, at the very least, the EU’s standing in the STEM sector. The Commission’s Digital Education Action Plan designed to support technology use and the development of digital competences in education is an encouraging sign that policymakers are thinking more about STEM skills. But with a depressed job market for the foreseeable future, providing meaningful work experience opportunities will be a major challenge.


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