1. Ministerial Foreword
Ambition, innovation and the sciences are embedded in Scotland's heritage and culture and are integral to Scotland's future success. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics - STEM - have never been more relevant than they are today as we face a global climate emergency, and the uncertain future arising from the UK's exit from the European Union.
Our Programme for Government for 2019-20 highlights both these challenges, setting out the next steps on Scotland's journey to net zero emissions, including the development of a Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan. Our landmark Climate Change Act raises Scotland's ambitions and ensures that we are leading the world in the response. STEM will be vital in researching, developing and delivering new approaches to tackle the global climate emergency. Knowledge and awareness of STEM will also be critical in enabling people to engage with the climate change debate and to make informed decisions about the actions that they will take.
The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow later this year provides an opportunity to showcase Scotland's excellence in STEM and the link to tackling climate change. Scotland's Year of Coast and Waters in 2020 also offers opportunities to drive STEM engagement in areas such as biodiversity, sustainability and climate.
STEM skills are key drivers of innovation and growth and the basis for Scotland's global reputation for excellence in the sciences that we must maintain and develop in the years to come. We want to position Scotland as a leader in the intelligent application of technologies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including robotics, artificial intelligence, quantum technology and biotechnology which will transform all sectors of the Scottish economy. This creates huge opportunities for economic growth and social benefit for the people of Scotland and, developing STEM skills in Scotland's workforce will support our ambitions in Scotland's Future Skills Action Plan.
To maximise the benefit Scotland can derive from these opportunities, we need to continually develop and grow our STEM expertise, and particularly our digital skills base. We need to make sure that our approach is inclusive, and ensure there is equality of access and opportunity to study STEM and pursue STEM jobs and careers. We need to continue to attract and retain people from under-represented groups, such as women and girls, and those from deprived communities, into STEM.
For all these reasons our STEM Education and Training Strategy, now in its third year, is supporting people of all ages to develop their STEM skills and to broaden understanding of the applications of STEM in wider society. The Strategy is making progress in delivering excellence in learning and teaching, providing equity of access to STEM education, instilling inspiration and creating connections between education and employers.
Business and employers are integral to the successful delivery of the STEM Strategy. By providing examples and experience of STEM in the workplace they can inspire current and future scientists, engineers, mathematicians and innovators, and secure the talent pipeline into their industries. We will continue to work with them to build and grow active partnerships with our schools, colleges and universities and provide apprenticeship opportunities. I encourage all employers, and particularly those in climate and energy related industries, to engage with our education and training system and help to build the STEM skills necessary to meet the future needs of our economy and our society.
In the second year of our STEM Education and Training Strategy, there has been good progress in driving forward improvements in STEM learning and teaching in early learning settings, schools, colleges and universities, science centres and festivals, and in community learning and development settings. This report sets out in detail how this is being achieved. For many of the actions, particularly those targeted at the early years, it will take time and patience to see the long-term impacts. I look forward to seeing these improvements start to emerge in the third year of delivery and beyond - helping us to grow Scotland's reputation as a STEM Nation and a climate change leader.
Richard Lochhead MSP
Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science