STEM collaboration and partnerships

Written by: Yvonne Baker | Published:
Partnership: Teachers at STEM Learning’s ENTHUSE Partnership Celebration Day at the National STEM Learning Centre in York

Nurturing partnerships between schools to inspire STEM teaching is at the heart of the ENTHUSE programme. Yvonne Baker explains

Learning best practice and building relationships was central to our ENTHUSE Partnership Celebration Day held at our National STEM Learning Centre in York recently. An annual event, more than 70 teachers attended this year.

Bringing together partnerships at different points in the programme, the day is a valuable way for those involved to share and celebrate their experiences and look at ways in which they have met the challenges along the way.

ENTHUSE Partnerships

EHTHUSE partnerships enable groups of around four to eight schools and colleges to work together to improve teaching and learning in STEM subjects. Often the partnerships grow into even larger groups.

The partnerships are open to state-funded schools or colleges in the UK from all phases that want to work together to address low attainment and underachievement in STEM subjects, with funding from industry and bursaries also available for training.

It was a brilliant day in which we saw partnerships come together to share ideas and best practice. Sustaining these relationships is one element we particularly nurture throughout the programme so that those involved can continue to reap the benefits once the funding has ceased.

To bring about inspired STEM teaching, partnerships develop two-year action plans including access to CPD at STEM Learning, free resources, immersion in industry or university through a STEM Insight teacher placement, STEM Ambassadors and enrichment activities.

We have received positive feedback from schools about their ENTHUSE Partnerships. Maths teacher Philip Eadie, from The Thomas Hardey School in Dorset, which now has 17 schools in its partnership told us: “It is the relationships that are key. ENTHUSE Partnerships are a platform that helped me to get into other schools and start the conversation about working together. No-one said no. It just meant that I could get into start building relationships and convince everyone that we are on the same side. We have achieved some fantastic results.”

Building links between schools and industry

Importantly, these partnerships are also an essential way for STEM Learning to help schools build links with industry to increase the future STEM skills pipeline.

We carried out some research with an independent research agency in April this year questioning 400 HR directors and decision-makers in businesses that rely on staff with STEM skills. They spoke to business leaders in companies at the cutting edge, from healthcare to AI and robotics. Most of them told us that they are struggling to recruit staff with the STEM skills they need.

With new STEM roles expected to double in the next 10 years, employers have warned us that the UK could face a loss of foreign investment and fall behind other countries in terms of technological advancement if we can’t provide skilled workers.

The UK government is planning to invest more than £400 million in mathematics, digital and technical education, but businesses will also need to start investing in a sustainable pipeline of talent now.

STEM Learning research has estimated that the STEM skills shortage is costing businesses £1.5 billion per year. According to these findings, the costs are coming from recruitment, temporary staffing, inflated salaries and additional training costs.

The research revealed that nine in 10 (89 per cent) STEM businesses have found it difficult to hire staff with the required skills in the last 12 months, leading to a current shortfall of more than 173,000 workers – an average of 10 unfilled roles per business. These findings come as the UK is entering the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, a time of significant technological, economic and societal change, along with a Brexit outcome that remains uncertain, and severe funding challenges in schools.

As a result, the recruitment process is taking much longer for the majority (89 per cent) of STEM employers – an average of 31 days more than expected – forcing many to turn to expensive temporary staffing solutions (74 per cent), hire at lower levels (65 per cent) and train staff in-house (83 per cent) or inflate salaries (76 per cent) by as much as £8,500 in larger companies to attract the right talent.

Almost half (48 per cent) of STEM businesses are looking abroad to find the right skills, while seven in 10 (70 per cent) are hiring candidates without a STEM background or simply leaving positions empty (60 per cent).

At STEM Learning, our work on ENTHUSE Partnerships with schools and businesses is, we hope, helping to solve this problem. We use funds and know-how from businesses and that of government to create programmes working with schools. So far we have had an impact with 20,000 teachers, reaching more than two million students per year, training teachers and educators as well as getting experts into schools to share their knowledge and expertise.

Much to my own joy, at the Celebration Day, one school reported that 100 per cent of its students said that science was their favourite subject. How fantastic to hear. Words like this really confirm the great work that is taking place.

  • Yvonne Baker is the chief operating officer at STEM Learning.

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