STEM education: Aerospace and space companies plan to hire a lot more people in the coming decade, creating several STEM career opportunities Image Credit: Agency

Abu Dhabi: At a time when job creation is becoming an issue for governments globally, there are some sectors struggling to find skilled employees. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, encompasses the sector that is facing the crisis of a massive skills gap when it comes to hiring new talent.

While the acronym STEM could sound confusing to many, the subjects that fall under this discipline are not as rare as one would think. Subjects or degrees that fall under this 4-branch acronym include aerospace engineering, astronomy, biochemistry, biology, chemical engineering, chemistry, civil engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, mathematics, mechanical engineering, physics, psychology and statistics.

STEM also covers more than just the obvious definitions of these subjects - STEM skills include niche jobs that require creativity, analytical thinking, problem-solving skills, critical thinking and more. From taking on a VFX (Visual Effects) job in cinema, to becoming an actuary or data analyst, the options are limitless.

Then, why the skills gap?

Young people’s inability to identify and acquire the skills needed for today’s job market have contributed to a 12 per cent drop in youth employment over the past two decades, a report by Generation Unlimited, PwC and UNICEF said.

A 2018 study by Pew Research in the United States said that more than half of their respondents said STEM subjects were just 'too hard' to pursue. The same study asked non-STEM executives why they had decided to pursue other careers in comparison to STEM. The most commonly cited reason for not pursuing a STEM career was cost and time barriers (27 per cent), such as high expenses required for education or a lack of access to resources and opportunities. One-in-five (20 per cent) said the reason they did not pursue a STEM career was that they found another interest.

Higher earning power, gender gap

Apart from the lack of supply in the field, the fact that STEM graduates have much higher earning power than other graduates is another reason to actively try for this sector.

There is also a huge gender gap in STEM fields with it being heavily male-dominated. From social bias to lack of role models, the reasons listed for this gap are many. This also means that now, more than ever, this field is looking to bridge such gaps with more female representation in such sectors.

Initiatives in UAE

In February, the UAE announced a new programme to upskill 10,000 girls in public schools in STEM. Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of State for Government Development and the Future, said the initiative seeks to enhance the UAE’s future readiness through PPPs (Public Private Partnerships) aiming to build future STEM skills of new generations, being among the UAE’s main future directions.

To prepare the space and aerospace industry for future growth and development, the Global Aerospace Summit will see the return of the NextGen Leaders programme, with a renewed focus on building workforce capacity and skills. The high-level forum, hosted by Mubadala, is set to take place at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi from 24 -26 May 2022.

Focused on students, graduates and young professionals, the NextGen Leaders programme is spread out across the three days of the Summit and includes panel discussions, networking opportunities, mentorship activities, workshops, and university showcasing.

Additionally, NextGen Leaders, in partnership with the Space Generation Advisory Council and supported by Safran, will provide a mentorship platform for students and young professionals to receive practical guidance from industry leaders on how to kick start or advance their careers.