29 September, 2015 - 09:06 By Tony Quested

Here is the STEM – now let’s cultivate the bloom!

It’s a stat that bears repetition. With only one per cent of the planet’s population the UK still produces 10 per cent of the world’s top scientific research output.

STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is integral to this gain from brain to build on the UK’s success as the world’s sixth largest manufacturer with an engineering turnover of around £800 billion per annum.

Despite this immense wealth-generating capacity the penny still hasn’t dropped. Although STEM graduates are set to earn the highest paid salaries in the land, employers are struggling to recruit STEM-skilled staff.

It may be a timing issue as we await the next generation of STEM-centric engineers. Maybe more education of the educators is required.

Beyond the obvious synergies, STEM education is not only a pre-requisite for employment but the endemic skills set also informs young people who are growing up in an increasingly scientific and technological society.

But this isn’t all about the students. To ensure a strong STEM economy and community, training for the number and quality of teachers and lecturers required to teach STEM subjects is a must-have.

STEM students need specialist knowledge to challenge them and to make them aware of the multitude of industries their career could lead to with tailored education.

The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) in Norwich, besides the fantastic genomics research at its core, is playing a crucial role in spreading the gospel for STEM education – to potential students and tutors alike.

A TGAC event last week brought together active STEM ambassadors and teachers to discuss potential learning activities and show initiatives conducted in school to encourage novice ambassadors to replicate.

Led by CONNECT Education & Business and run by Norfolk School STEM lead Vanessa Godden and Norfolk STEM coordinator Charles Wood, the new STEM ambassadors met with active evangelists and teachers.

The objective was to inspire the newcomers about the different types of school activities designed to translate STEM subjects into a supply chain of future talent.

The overarching STEMNET organisation works with over 30,000 volunteers keen to become STEM ambassadors; it is an invaluable resource for teachers to deliver the STEM curriculum and raise awareness of STEM careers.

Encouraged to go beyond the classroom to work with other teachers and lecturers, the ambassadors collaborate across subjects to enhance the school curriculum and exemplify to the young people real-life STEM career experiences.

There is no acceptable default in this initiative for a nation used to selling its innovation skills to the world. Without hot gospellers of STEM we will not inspire high-class tutors; and without teachers of the highest order thousands of potential STEM students could slip unknown and uncharted into other careers.

The force should be with us: It is time to redouble our efforts to establish a dynamic, ongoing STEM register based on a hot list of the best communicators, the top tutors and the most talented students – plus the universities and companies best geared to optimising this united capability. A STEM cell, if you like, with ongoing regenerative power.

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