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Chief Scientist's research highlights importance of STEM skills

29 April, 2015

"The latest research from the Office of the Chief Scientist released today (29 April) highlights the growing importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills to creating a more productive Australian workforce," Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said.

"The occasional paper makes it very clear that STEM skills contribute to productivity growth and workplace innovation.  These skills help us to operate more effectively and to remain globally competitive in the knowledge-based economy," Willox said.

The Chief Scientist's paper, STEM Skills in the Workforce: What do Employers Want? was based on consultation with employers and a survey of their views on the nature and quantity of the STEM skills they require.

"A major finding which should resonate with prospective graduates was that 82 per cent of employers agreed that employees with STEM qualifications are valuable to the workplace, even when their major area of study is not a prerequisite for the role," Willox said.

The paper includes a number of other important findings:

  • Over 70 per cent of employers considered their STEM staff as among their most innovative;
  • 45 per cent of employers expect their workplace requirements for STEM-qualified employees will increase over the next five to ten years;
  • 40 per cent of employers report difficulty in filling technician and trade worker roles. The figure was 32 per cent for professionals and managers; and
  • Employers value long-term work placements to assist graduates to prepare for the workforce but only 28 per cent currently offer this opportunity.

In addition, STEM qualified employees rated higher than others in regard to important capabilities such as active learning, critical thinking and complex and creative problem-solving.

The paper, drawing on work commissioned from Delloite Access Economics, also comments on the level of engagement between education institutions and employers. Some 62 per cent had some level of engagement with post-secondary education institutions although the level of satisfaction with this is low. This is an area to be jointly tackled by education and business.

"The significant work on STEM skills being undertaken by the Office of the Chief Scientist is of great value to our economy and importantly business also clearly needs to work more closely with education providers to support the growth of STEM skills in our workforce," Willox said.

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