STEM strategy for education and training: first annual report

Overview of progress in the first year of the five year STEM Strategy for Education and Training in Scotland.


The Strategy identifies four key challenges for STEM education and training in Scotland:

  • We need to ensure children, young people and adults are encouraged to develop an interest in, and enthusiasm for, STEM that is reinforced throughout their lives.
  • We need to ensure our education system has the right number of practitioners, including teachers, with the appropriate STEM capability, delivering excellent learning and teaching.
  • We need to ensure that our education and training system is equipping people with the skills that employers need and that it has the flexibility to respond to the changes in labour market demand and the globalised economic context.
  • We need to tackle the gender imbalances and other inequities that exist across STEM education and training including in relation to race, disability, deprivation and geography. These are unfair and undermine our ability to deliver inclusive economic growth in Scotland.

Addressing these challenges, the Strategy sets out a vision for everyone in Scotland to be encouraged and supported to develop their STEM skills throughout their lives. It has four key aims:

  • to build the capacity of the education and training system to deliver excellent STEM learning so that employers have access to the workforce they need;
  • to close equity gaps in participation and attainment in STEM so that everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential and contribute to Scotland’s economic prosperity;
  • to inspire children, young people and adults to study STEM and to continue their studies to obtain more specialist skills; and
  • to connect the STEM education and training offer with labour market need – both now and in the future – to support improved productivity and inclusive economic growth.
2014 - 755,000 | 2017 - 804,000

In 2017 an estimated 804,000 people were employed in STEM related industries, including healthrelated business and activities, in Scotland, an increase of 6.5% from 755,000 in 2014.

robot saying +6.5%

The STEM Strategy connects with and links to a number of other priorities of the Scottish Government.

Mathematics and numeracy are part of, and underpin, STEM knowledge and skills. Numeracy is one of three priorities within Scottish education, creating a significant focus on numeracy across all education settings, which is reinforced by the aims of the STEM Strategy.

The Developing the Young Workforce Programme (DYW) is Scotland’s youth employment strategy and aims to create an excellent, work-relevant education offer to young people in Scotland, helping to ensure young people have the skills they need for employment. The scope and objectives of the DYW programme and the STEM Strategy are not the same. The DYW programme focuses on young people and is concerned with all skills for employment in all occupations, whereas the STEM Strategy is for people of all ages and focuses on STEM skills for life as well as for work.

The two are closely connected and mutually supportive of one another. The STEM Strategy directly contributes to the objectives of the DYW programme because it addresses the need for all young people to have the STEM skills they need to thrive in all workplaces. At the same time, the DYW programme’s focus on raising awareness about the world of work, and on building partnerships across the different sectors of education and with employers, will support the delivery of the STEM Strategy’s actions in these areas.

The STEM Strategy also connects with and supports the aims of the Learner Journey Review. The Learner Journey Review aims to deliver the best value for the learner, to ensure that all learners are on the right path for the right job. The report published on completion of the review set out the priorities for further improvements to the Scottish education and skills system to ensure all young people get as much as possible from the system. It also provided an opportunity to be absolutely clear about how we best align our system to deliver more choices, and to ensure that we value those choices equally. The STEM Strategy will support this ambition through building skills and raising awareness of the availability of options and career paths in STEM.

The scope of the STEM Strategy is focused on education and training and has been developed as a medium to long-term response to concerns about STEM skills shortages in the labour market. Other programmes and strategies within Government are focussed on fair work and meeting skills shortages in the wider economy, including immediate skills needs. These include our work in developing a Future Skills Action Plan, establishing a National Retraining Partnership, the Flexible Workforce Development Fund, the strategic plan of the Enterprise and Skills Board, our investments in City Deals, the Fair Work Action Plan, and the Disability Employment Action Plan.

The forthcoming Future Skills Action Plan will set out how the wider skills system in Scotland should be orientated so that it has the agility and flexibility needed to meet the opportunities, challenges and disruption the future will present.

The STEM strategy will contribute to the success of the Future Skills Action Plan and the other plans and programmes above by building up STEM skills and awareness for everyone throughout education, training and science engagement. At the same time these wider plans and programmes will help to ensure there are pathways into employment for people to follow out of education and training across the labour market, including those sectors demanding STEM skills.

The Government’s Gender Pay Gap Action Plan is due to be published early in 2019. It will identify a series of actions to reduce gender pay gaps across Scotland as part of the Scottish Government’s inclusive growth vision. The actions in the STEM strategy on tackling gender imbalances in STEM will make a significant contribution to addressing occupational segregation and closing the gender pay gap.

This annual report fulfils Ministers’ commitment to public reporting on progress, setting out the great work underway in Scotland to achieve our vision and develop STEM capability across the learning, training and skills landscape.

2019 Total employment and 2017 total employment

STEM related industries accounted for 30.7% of all employment in 2017 compared with 29.5% in 2014, including health-related businesses and activities.

23.5%, 616,000

Excluding health-related business and activities, STEM industries accounted for the employment of 616,000 people, 23.5% of all employment in Scotland in 2017.


Email: Frank Creamer

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