Why women must fill growing tech skills gap

Study claims 142,000 new jobs will be created by 2023

More women in tech are needed to fill a growing number of jobs in science, technology, engineering and research in the UK, according to a new study.

The 'Jobs of the Future' report by non-partisan think tank, the Social Market Foundation, and EDF Energy predicted that a surge in digital innovation and rapid infrastructure growth will result in 142,000 new STEM job vacancies by 2023.

The data comes from the Social Market Foundation's analysis of government data and examination of trends in the growth of science, research, engineering and technology jobs.

However, the report also warns that there will be a significant shortage in the number of skilled applicants ready to fill the roles, including a 40% shortfall in engineering.

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The need for more girls entering the STEM workplace is therefore "essential to the success of the UK industrial strategy", the report argued, saying women currently represent less than a quarter of the workforce in four out of five most in-demand industries.

Demand for research, science and engineering roles will remain high, according to the report, as the government maintains a commitment to infrastructure investment. But the biggest surge is likely to come from areas such as retail, PR firms, and financial services, which will see an increased demand for STEM-based skills over the six-year period.

Today's report highlights "a big opportunity for today's girls and a challenge for the UK's industrial strategy", according to Nida Broughton, chief economist at the Social Market Foundation. "It's essential we invest in the skills and training so that the UK can meet this demand - and encouraging more women to consider science will be critical to our success."

Almost 22% of these 142,000 roles will be entirely new types of jobs, most of which will be in specialised construction (63%) and retail and head offices (36%). Specific roles are likely to include computer coders, intelligence consultants, robotics engineers, and data scientists.

The report found that the number of women working in STEM roles in 2016 was just 462,000, and they were significantly underrepresented in many of the roles likely to see higher job openings in the future. For example, women were found to make up only 10% of the entire architectural workforce, and only 16% in computer services such as programming and coding.

In response to the findings, EDF Energy said it would be increasing its number of female apprentices to 30% by 2018.

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"As one of the fastest growing industries in the world, it offers a huge amount of opportunities for people from all backgrounds, education and cultures and is increasingly attracting strong, inspiring female leaders," said Dayne Turbitt, senior VP of the UK at Dell EMC.

"We need to tackle the stereotypes associated with the IT industry from a young age, even before girls are choosing their GCSE and A-Level subjects. It is the responsibility of both men and women leaders to inspire young individuals and help them to understand the exciting opportunities that a career in IT holds," added Turbitt.

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