Last week I told you about Irene and her cake factory job requiring STEM skills. The skills Irene needed were in maths but they are lumped in with Science, Technology and Engineering to form STEM skills. For Scotland STEM is huge. Some estimate 60% of our GDP is accounted for by jobs requiring these core skills. When you look the weight of oil and gas, renewable, and healthcare/life sciences in Scotland's economy it's huge. Consider as well as technology niches like software and game design it's evident; Scotland needs STEM.
Apparently a second "M" has been added to include medicine and related jobs all of which require these key skills. In addition evidence shows that effective citizenship and wellbeing is impossible without going beyond basic numeracy. However much of the STEM debate focuses around formal education or very specific skills needs.
Technology has transformed the process of acquiring knowledge and skills. If Irene had been able to access a "bite sized" programme and I or someone else had been able to coach her on the content she would have got there. The problem is that STEM is still plagued by the" ladder of learning" approach which basically says: 'If you missed this bit the rest won't make sense'.
A recent report from Glasgow University tackles this and calls for less of a subject basis to exploring STEM. It's clear also from the most influential report on adult skills the OECD survey (PIAAC) shows we have a problem. It shows in Scotland and Britain these skills are low. According to a report by National Numeracy 4 in 5 adults have a low level of numeracy. In addition when it comes to numeracy most people over rate their competence. In Scotland 26% of adults rated themselves higher at intermediate level for example in the Scottish Governments 2009 survey.
But let's not get weighed down by the numbers. There is an opportunity here for L&D and the psychology profession to seize this with both hands In Scotland I think we could easily roll out a STEM in the community Street STEM programme with L&D specialist, tech companies and government. It's the kind of thing which could work an experiment in a particular neighbourhood. We could even use the school pupils who" get it" to become tutors. It's all doable in scaleable and clubbable Scotland.
PS: Next week we will all know what happened. Watch this space
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