Publication - Consultation responses

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics: consultation on a strategy for education and training

Published: 21 Mar 2017
Learning Directorate
Part of:

An analysis of responses to the consultation on the draft science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) strategy.

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics: consultation on a strategy for education and training


The draft strategy details the range of agencies expected to drive the strategy forward at a national level, but also notes the need to maximise existing and identify new partnerships to support the strategy. In this context, the consultation included a final series of questions around the contribution that employers and others can make to delivery of the strategy.

Involving others in delivery of the strategy

Question 18 sought views on the range of organisations and people that should be involved in delivery of the strategy:

Q18. What other groups, organisations or people need to be involved in delivery of this strategy?

A total of 125 respondents provided further comment at Question 18, 65% of all respondents. This included 92 group respondents, and 33 individuals.

Consistent with the emphasis on engagement and collaboration in responses to Questions 16 and 17, respondents referred to a broad range of groups and organisations as having a potential role in delivery of the strategy. This included some respondents of the view that the strategy covers the key sectors and stakeholders to be involved in delivering aims and outcomes, and it is notable that some of the specific organisations mentioned by respondents are already referenced in the draft strategy.

In terms of specific groups and people mentioned by respondents, the main sectors and types of organisations were:

  • STEM industry and industry professional and representative bodies;
  • Education sectors including institutions across sectors, teachers and other educators, and professional and representative bodies;
  • Others involved in learning and skills development, including training providers, standards and accreditation bodies, and organisations with a focus on careers advice and recruitment;
  • Academic and research bodies;
  • STEM engagement schemes with reference to a range of specific initiatives, including individual STEM ambassadors;
  • Science engagement organisations including science centres and festivals;
  • Third sector bodies including those with a particular focus on equalities;
  • Public bodies including local and national government, and other public sector organisations including funding bodies; and
  • Young people and parents including representative groups, and the wider community.

The table below lists the specific organisations and people mentioned by respondents at Question 18.

Question 18: Specific groups/organisations to be involved in delivery

Organisation type/name

Organisation type/name

Addictions Support & Counselling

Hunter Foundation

AGR Scotland


Association of Directors of Education in Scotland

Institute of Physics

Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services Scotland

Institution of Engineering and Technology

Association of Parental Councils

Kilmarnock Engineering and Science Society

Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry ( ABPI)

National Science Learning Centre


National Physical Laboratory

Botanic Gardens

National Union of Students

BP Student Tutoring


Building Engineering Services Association

Public Engagement with Research Unit

Building Science Capital

Research Councils UK


Royal Botanic Garden


Royal Society of Chemistry

CLD standards council


Construction Industry Training Board

Science and Technologies Facilities Council


Science Skills Academy

Developing the Young Workforce regional groups


Development Trust Association Scotland

Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre


Scottish Children's Parliament

Edinburgh and Lothians Collaborative Hub for Care-Experienced Learners

Scottish Council for Development and Industry

Edinburgh International Science Festival

Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust

Edinburgh Zoo

Scottish Natural Heritage

Education Endowment Foundation

Scottish Schools Education Research Centre

Education Scotland

Scottish Science Advisory Council

Engineering Development Trust

Scottish Seabird Centre

Engineering UK's Tomorrow's Engineers

Scottish Wildlife Trust

Entrepreneurial Spark


Equality Challenge Unit


EQUATE Scotland




Field Studies Council

The Smallpiece Trust

Forestry Commission



Young Engineers and Science Clubs Scotland

Gates Foundation

Young Scot

Glasgow Science Centre

YouthLink Scotland

Respondents' activities that support the strategy

Question 19 asked respondents to detail the range of activities they are current undertaking that support the strategy's aims and priorities.

Q19. Tell us about what you are doing in your organisation, establishment or community that supports the aims and priorities of this Strategy.

A total of 130 respondents provided further comment at Question 19, 68% of all respondents. This included 86 group respondents, and 44 individuals.

These respondents described a considerable volume of recent, current and planned activity that supports the strategic aims and priority themes - including some providing detailed accounts of ongoing initiatives and programmes. Actions referenced by respondents included some of those noted in the draft strategy, but respondents expanded on these to include a broad range of activity across sectors.

This activity was typically focused around broad areas such as supporting STEM learning and teaching, partnership working, STEM engagement, vocational pathways and working with the STEM industry, and actions with a specific focus on equality. However, while the broad areas of activity were similar, the specific initiatives and programmes mentioned varied across respondent types. Over the following pages we provide a brief summary of the key areas highlighted by each respondent type.

Q19: Activity that supports the Strategy

Schools, colleges and universities

Learning and teaching

A broad range of STEM-related programmes including courses and "boot camps"; raising awareness of STEM pathways; courses for STEM returners; promoting STEM skills across non- STEM disciplines; development of transferable study skills; " STEAM" programmes promoting the role of arts in STEM; development of digital skills including e-learning. Teachers CPD with a STEM-focus. STEM in the outdoors including provision of CPD, development of "nature pedagogy". STEM-related awards and recognition for students including academic awards and "Olympiad" competitions.


Contributing to STEM partnerships, advisory groups and sharing of good practice; identifying STEM "champions"; supporting development of additional STEM facilities and programmes; research partnerships to provide STEM research experience; STEM-based events for parents and carers; international partnerships. Developing STEM-related policy and strategy.

Outreach and engagement

STEM outreach and engagement, primarily to schools, and including partnership working across sectors. Specific approaches included taster sessions in schools including use of digital tools; supporting STEM clubs and other extra-curricular arrangements; summer schools; supporting students as STEM Ambassadors; employability sessions; wider STEM engagement including providing open access to "science centre-like" facilities.

Vocational pathways and industry

Development of STEM academic and vocational pathways including employability and careers pathways. Engagement with STEM industry and professional bodies including industry placements for students; STEM Apprenticeships; pre-Apprenticeship work; providing STEM training and CPD to industry; contributing to the Developing the Young Workforce programme.


A range of STEM activity with a specific equality focus including working with Equate and other third sector organisations to improve equality across education sectors; gateway programmes to facilitate entry to STEM courses for disadvantaged groups; programmes to raise attainment and aspirations for disadvantaged groups; work to improve gender balance including a focus on specific disciplines and courses; positive action; increasing diversity of workforce; review of marketing materials for gender bias; unconscious bias training.

Academic/research institutes

Learning and teaching

STEM-related courses; summer project placements; mentoring support, providing STEM-related professional learning and CPD.


Contributing to STEM partnerships, supporting joint working and planning, sharing of good practice.

Outreach and engagement

STEM outreach and engagement through schools, colleges and universities, and with communities including mentoring; STEM engagement programmes and events; engagement with teachers.

Vocational pathways and industry

Engagement with STEM industry and professional bodies including provision of Modern Apprenticeships; support for paid internships; operating STEM Ambassadors schemes and providing ambassadors; facilitating events and networks and sharing of practice, providing STEM-related professional learning and CPD.


Modern apprenticeships for care leavers.

Science engagement

Learning and teaching

Engaging with the teaching profession to develop educational programmes, providing STEM experiences in schools



Outreach and engagement

Raising awareness of STEM including for example through science festivals and other high-profile events; providing learning experiences, summer camps and activity breaks; events tailored to support young people aspiring to a STEM university course; links with STEM Ambassadors; STEM-related awards and recognition; providing outdoor STEM engagement experiences.

Vocational pathways and industry

Engaging with research and industry to inform design of education and development programmes; involving industry in delivery of STEM outreach engagement.


Adopted school programme for those in remote areas, those in disadvantaged areas and those with additional support needs.

STEM industry

Learning and teaching

Contributing to CPD for teachers.


Contributing to STEM partnerships and professional bodies; providing research and evidence input to policy development; sponsorship of STEM partnerships, festivals and events.

Outreach and engagement

Contributing to Developing Young Workforce groups; working with the STEM Ambassadors programmes including supporting staff to become ambassadors; building ongoing relationships with schools and further/higher education; working with science centres to develop education programmes; providing programmes of STEM engagement and activity; outreach activity with a specific focus on developing digital skills; mentoring of school pupils.

Vocational pathways and industry

Recruitment of workforce through apprenticeships (including reference to Modern Apprenticeships and Graduate Level Apprenticeships) and other vocational pathways; maintaining work experience programmes; using open days and careers events to improve understanding of STEM career pathways; providing STEM training and development to employees.


Supporting women returners programmes; supporting women-focused STEM societies and organisations; contributing to STEM events with a specific equality focus; providing gender training to STEM ambassadors.

Education and professional/ representative bodies

Learning and teaching

Contributing to the development of vocational programmes and qualifications; promoting STEM through Professional Recognition for teachers; refreshing teachers' professional standards accreditation of ITE courses to ensure a focus on numeracy; provision of accredited teacher CPD; providing teachers with placement experience in universities or STEM industry; engagement and support to new STEM teachers on PGCE courses. Providing accreditation to STEM-related education; developing education programmes with a specific focus on digital skills; supporting learning and teaching of STEM in schools, including providing access to STEM resources and teaching materials. Providing programmes across education sectors to improve careers education and wider understanding of STEM careers pathways; funding of PhD studentships.


Contributing to STEM partnerships and professional bodies, providing research and evidence input to policy development, facilitating sharing of information and practice.

Outreach and engagement

Establishing STEM hubs to facilitate engagement across schools; representation on Developing Young Workforce groups; providing STEM Ambassadors programmes and providing/supporting ambassadors; building ongoing relationships with schools and further/higher education; providing programmes of STEM engagement and activity including residential programmes, programmes giving students opportunities to engage in research; programmes to encourage uptake of more specialist STEM skills, outreach activity with a specific focus on developing digital skills.

Vocational pathways and industry

Producing professional standards and associated frameworks for apprenticeships and quality assurance of apprentice providers; providing work placements and project-based experience of STEM industries; participating in schemes to provide grants for work experience; providing programmes to promote and support employability and career progression; providing STEM industry with resources to support CPD and STEM engagement; providing STEM-related CPD across industries; providing funding to industry to support innovation.


Working with third sector bodies to develop and promote equality-related approaches; supporting networks and groups with a specific focus on addressing inequality in STEM; projects with a specific focus on gender inequality and stereotyping; programmes to provide STEM opportunities to young people not in training education or employment; need for better representation of disadvantaged groups highlighted equality outcomes.

Local authorities and other public bodies

Learning and teaching

Provision of STEM-focused CPD for teachers; corporate STEM team to develop and provide CPD opportunities and STEM programmes; STEM coordinators in schools and secondments to lead improvements in STEM numeracy networks and "champions"; developing guidance on teaching of numeracy and mathematics. Ensuring all learners have access to STEM programmes and experiences; programmes around primary to secondary transition; digital skills and computer science programmes; S6 science ambassadors supporting provision of STEM education at primary level; programmes for pupils at upper secondary stages with a particular focus on career progression and employability; strategic promotion of Foundational Apprenticeships; raising awareness of labour market intelligence across schools; STEM competitions and events across schools; programmes to encourage family participation in science homework.


Maintaining strong links and engagement with further and higher education sectors; community learning and development partnerships with a STEM focus.

Outreach and engagement

STEM events and festivals; extra-curricular STEM clubs; engagement with Developing the Young Workforce teams; identifying and supporting STEM ambassadors; programmes to raise STEM awareness as part of major infrastructure projects, such as engagement opportunities for teachers and pupils; Digital Learning and Teaching conference.

Vocational pathways and industry

Provision of vocational pathways including apprenticeships and graduate networks to recruit and develop STEM talent ; skills investment plans, use of community benefit and social responsibility clauses with suppliers in STEM sectors.


"Girls into STEM" programmes; working with third sector and others on gender balance.

Third sector/Non-profit organisations

Learning and teaching

Providing STEM engagement and education programmes across schools; supplying free STEM resources to schools and funding schools' purchase of equipment; provision of CPD and other programmes with a particular focus on improving STEM skills and confidence for teachers, and with progression routes to accredited qualification; campaigns focused on the quality of STEM education.


Working in partnership with local authorities, education sectors and other partners.

Outreach and engagement

Running STEM events and festivals to raise awareness and engagement; developing resources to improve parents' awareness of STEM career options.

Vocational pathways and industry

Work with industry to identify economic growth sectors and skills gaps - and develop resources and events in response to these; collaboration with STEM industries to provide STEM education programmes; funding providers of CPD across STEM industries.


Working to identify and challenge gender stereotyping and unconscious bias; managing STEM industry-funded schools programme with a focus on gender; supporting women's retention and progression in STEM through CPD and access to STEM networks; engaging with industry to identify and remove barriers to women in STEM; running programmes to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in STEM, including a specific focus on support for trans staff and students; providing educational and networking opportunities for women in digital technologies, including programmes with a particular focus on entrepreneurship and business startups; provide mentoring and support to women in STEM apprenticeships and employment; support to disadvantaged young people through inspirational STEM programmes, development of STEM skills and employment programmes; working with local authorities to identify schools in rural and deprived areas as a focus for engagement.

Employers attracting and retaining more diverse STEM talent

The final consultation questions sought views on how employers could attract and retain more diverse STEM talent.

Q20. What could employers do to attract and retain more diverse STEM talent?

A total of 130 respondents provided further comment at Question 20, 68% of all respondents. This included 86 group respondents, and 44 individuals.

Respondents referred to a wide range of approaches that employers could use to improve the diversity of their STEM talent. This included reference to current activity which could be expanded, and new approaches which respondents felt are not used by enough employers. Broadly, these suggestions focused around work to raise awareness of the diversity of STEM careers and to provide more opportunities for children and young people to experience the sector, practices to ensure recruitment is more inclusive of those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and ensuring employers can retain more diverse talent. We highlight the main points in relation to each of these areas in turn below.

In relation to raising awareness of and engagement in STEM industries, most of those providing comment referred to the value of employer engagement with education sectors and other partners. A substantial number of respondents wished to see an expansion in employers' outreach engagement with schools, and with further and higher education. This was highlighted by a range of respondents including a number of colleges and universities, STEM industry and industry professional/ representative bodies, other STEM education and professional/ representative bodies, and third sector respondents. These respondents suggested that engagement provides significant benefits in terms of ensuring the education pipeline fits industry needs, improving understanding of what a career in STEM can involve, providing role models for potential STEM employers, and changing pupil (and teacher) perceptions of career pathways. An academic/ research institute also noted the potential benefits of engagement with further and higher education sectors in establishing pathways to ensure highly skilled graduates are not "lost" to the sector.

Greater employer engagement through STEM hubs and promotion of STEM ambassadorships was the main focus for most of these respondents, with some also referring to the benefits of a wider approach to enabling potential employees and their families to engage with employers. This included the role of science centres as a forum to change perceptions and supporting STEM engagement. Respondents referred to scope for expansion in this kind of engagement across STEM sectors, although some suggested that that this is particularly the case for "traditional" STEM industries.

As was noted in relation to STEM ambassadors at Question 17, several respondents highlighted the need for employers to provide those engaging with education sectors with the skills and resources to do so.

The other key area highlighted by respondents in relation to providing more opportunities for the future workforce to engage with the sector was expanding participation in apprenticeship programmes and workplace experience. This was a particular recommendation for colleges and universities, and some STEM industry professional/representative respondents. The value of ensuring these workplace experiences are meaningful was highlighted, including consideration of developing embedded and accredited placements, and the potential role of paid placements. The potential role of financial incentives such as sponsorship in attracting a more diverse set of applicants was also mentioned. Several respondents also noted the value of mentoring, and its potential, for example, around easing the transition into work.

Several respondents also specifically highlighted scope to make better use of apprenticeships - including the Foundational Apprenticeship, Modern Apprenticeship, and Graduate Level Apprenticeship. Respondents also referred to a need for clarity from the Scottish Government around use of the Apprenticeship Levy, and noted that HMRC is offering tax incentives for apprenticeships.

Respondents highlighted the importance of ensuring recruitment approaches reach those from disadvantaged backgrounds, with a number of respondents suggesting that employers could do more here. The importance of recruitment processes being as inclusive as possible was highlighted by several education sector and science engagement respondents. This included reference to avoiding stereotypes and addressing unconscious bias, and being conscious of language use. Several respondents suggested that employers would benefit from specialist advice and support in this area.

The need for recruitment to be aware of and responsive to disadvantage was also mentioned by some. This included specific reference to gender, economic deprivation, disability and care leavers. These respondents mentioned a range of potential strategies and approaches, and the availability of good practice and expertise to support employers was noted. Providing role models from a diversity of backgrounds was mentioned as a particularly effective approach, including for example via STEM ambassadors and other engagement approaches. Several respondents also suggested a potential role for financial incentives to attract and support candidates from disadvantaged groups, including through Apprenticeship programmes. Specific recommendations included sponsorship or scholarships, and writing off student debt. A science engagement respondent also mentioned a need for employers to consider entry requirements, and for example how these assign value to academic and vocational routes. A third sector respondent suggested that employers consider use of positive action, and referred to availability of advice and support for this.

The final element mentioned by respondents focused on approaches to retaining STEM employees. Changes to the workplace culture were the most commonly mentioned area here, including comments from respondents across all respondent types. The focus for these respondents was on employers providing a more flexible, inclusive and family-friendly culture. This included concern around the number of employees lost to the STEM sector due to poor working conditions, poor training and a lack of opportunities for progression. Awareness of the potential for unconscious bias and stereotypes was referenced, including provision of unconscious bias training. Respondents referred to a number of agencies as having a particular contribution to make here including Equate Scotland, professional bodies, and reference to research and good practice guidance. Respondents also suggested a need for greater flexibility in the workplace, including, for example, around career breaks and support to returners to STEM, and support for carers.

Remuneration and terms and conditions were also referenced by a number of respondents including education sector, science engagement, local authority, third sector and individual respondents. These respondents suggested a need to ensure remuneration reflects employees' value, and crucially is competitive with other sectors to ensure that employers are able to attract the talent required. Several respondents also referred to a need for greater transparency in pay, particularly in relation to addressing the gender pay gap.

A number of respondents suggested a need for a stronger focus on professional development and learning for employees, including ensuring that opportunities are responsive to employee interests and aspirations. More widely, several respondents referred to a need to identify talented individuals and assist their development including, for example, via secondments. The importance of ensuring clear career pathways are in place was also referenced in relation to enabling STEM talent to progress. A STEM industry professional/representative respondent also noted a need for employers to recognise the value of retaining graduate employees during economic downturns, given the investment made in employees through induction and CPD.

Several respondents referred to a need to ensure equal parity of esteem to academic and vocational routes. This was linked to comments earlier around promoting use of placements. These respondents also referred to a need to shift the focus from always recruiting the highest qualified graduates, and committing more resources to quality induction and training.

The final element mentioned in relation to retaining employees was recognition of achievement. This included reference to examples of use of awards or certification for STEM employers, including those with a particular focus on specific disadvantaged groups to give these employees greater status and presence.


Email: Frank Creamer