Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: education and training strategy

A Strategy which offers a programme of actions for education, training and lifelong learning in Scotland to achieve our goals for STEM.

4 Our Approach

This strategy has been informed by a formal consultation process [2] , by our short-life Expert Reference Group, a range of recent reports into STEM education, including the STEMEC report, [3] and through discussion and debate across a wide range of events, meetings and forums. We are very grateful to all those that took part in the process.

Our short-life Expert Reference Group was co-chaired by Professor Sheila Rowan, the Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland, and Professor Iain Hunter of the University of Strathclyde and the Scottish Science Advisory Council. The Expert Group provided opportunities for dialogue with stakeholders and the wider sector, as well as acting as a source of valuable challenge as the strategy was developed.

Going forward, the Scottish Government’s network of Chief Scientific Advisers will support the aims of the strategy by promoting the use of science and science advice in policymaking, as well as championing STEM careers, particularly those within government.

A STEM data study [4] was also commissioned to support the strategy’s development, and is being published alongside this document.

We recognise that the different sectors employing those with STEM skills have different challenges and issues, with some, such as the digital and engineering sectors, facing particular recruitment challenges and skills gaps and shortages. This strategy is concerned with enabling everyone to develop the STEM skills that they need for success in life and that they are enthused and encouraged to pursue jobs and careers in STEM. Other plans and programmes, including the Skills Investment Plans, are designed to tackle the specific skills and recruitment challenges faced by particular sectors.

This strategy links to and builds on a number of related Scottish Government strategies and programmes, including Scotland’s Labour Market Strategy, Realising Scotland’s Potential in a Digital World and the Enterprise and Skills Review. In particular, the strategy supports the implementation of the specific STEM recommendations of the Developing the Young Workforce ( DYW) programme, Scotland’s youth employment strategy, through which the Scottish Government aims to create an excellent, work‑relevant education offer to young people in Scotland, giving them the skills for the current and anticipated jobs market. This includes creating new vocational learning options; enabling young people to learn in a range of settings in their senior phase of school; embedding employer engagement in education; offering careers advice at an earlier point in school; and introducing new standards for careers guidance and work experience.

This strategy also complemented, and its recommendations will be supported by, the Scottish Government’s current review of the 15-24 Learner Journey which is considering how we can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of learners’ experiences from the Senior Phase and through tertiary education. That review covers careers information, advice and guidance; applications; provision, transition and progression; and funding [5] .

The 15-24 Learner Journey review will present policy options to further the aims of this strategy. As part of the review, we are gathering evidence and views on the approach to and impact of careers information, advice and guidance in colleges and universities, and examining how we could further enhance the digital services that support access and applications. We will also put forward ideas for improving the alignment of school, college, training and university provision, in order to better meet the needs of learners and the economy. As part of this, a key objective will be aligning further and higher education STEM qualifications to the needs and demands of the economy, giving graduates access to a range of valuable and exciting career opportunities.

The strategy also supports the Government’s ambition to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up, through improving the education and life chances of our young people. We are determined to give all our children the best start in life through our Getting It Right for Every Child approach and we will also continue with our actions to close the attainment gap and improve attainment for all. To achieve this, we have embarked on a period of reform in our education system. A package of reforms was announced in June 2017 in the Scottish Government report Education Governance: Next Steps. In addition, a Blueprint for 2020: The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland sets out our vision – almost doubling the entitlement to free early learning and childcare to 1140 hours per year by 2020 for all three and four year olds and eligible two year olds. These major reforms offer an exciting opportunity to embed the aims of this STEM strategy in Scotland’s education system.

Supporting and encouraging the development of the STEM skills and capability for the current workforce is also important as we foster a modern, inclusive and innovative Scottish economy. This includes a focus on sectors such as advanced manufacturing and digital. Whilst this strategy does not consider in-work STEM skills development in detail, we will continue to work with industry to develop approaches that enable current as well as future employees to build their STEM skills.

The Enterprise and Skills Review: Report on Phase 2 contained a wide range of measures to support business, and ensure young people have access to the right skills to create growth across the Scottish economy.

The need for greater skills alignment is a key element within the report, supported by the joint development of a skills planning and provision model by Scotland’s skills agencies. This will be an important means through which a range of partners can work together to ensure a coherent and connected STEM skills pipeline, which aligns both STEM education and the STEM training offer with labour market need both now and in the future to support improved productivity and inclusive economic growth.

Alongside this, the Scottish Funding Council ( SFC) will continue to develop, improve and intensify the use of Outcome Agreements with institutions to achieve our desired outcomes for learners and skills development. Through this process, the SFC will promote the uptake and benefit of STEM learning in Scotland’s colleges and universities. The SFC will also encourage institutions in both sectors to collaborate across the learning system to support STEM education in early years and schools through engagement with industry and an inspiring offer of learning activity.


Email: Frank Creamer

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

Back to top