Are Europe’s schools and universities churning out graduates with useless degrees? Despite the struggling EU economy, fewer and fewer Europeans are studying so-called ‘hard’ subjects like science, engineering and maths. Since 2006, the number of ICT and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) graduates in Europe has plunged by almost 10%!
In the workforce today, only half of Europeans are deemed to be ‘digitally skilled’. And yet, over 90% of jobs today require these digital skills. In other words, there is a ‘skills gap’ in Europe, and it’s growing worse.
The situation is especially perverse when you consider that so many young people across the continent are unable to find jobs, while at the same time there are employers out there struggling to fill vacancies. If things continue as they are, then there will be a predicted 825,000 unfilled vacancies just for ICT professionals alone by 2020.
Want to learn more about the growing skills gap in Europe? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):
We had a comment from Paul suggesting that it was time to overhaul our educations systems, and “stimulate youngsters to choose studies that are truly needed within society, decreasing the skills gap”.
Is he right? Should governments encourage people to study ‘hard’ technical subjects instead of ‘soft’ subjects, like arts and humanities? To get a response we spoke to Jon Steinberg, public policy manager at Google in Europe. What was Google’s position on this question?
For another perspective we also spoke to David Calle, a popular Spanish YouTuber and founder of Unicoos, an e-learning website that helps students learn about maths, physics, and chemistry online. Did he think that studying science was really more valuable to society than studying art or history, as Paul argues?
What do students themselves think? We spoke to Krtin Nithiyanandam, a 15-year-old student from the UK and a finalist for the Google Science Fair Prize. In his spare time, Krtin developed a potential test for Alzheimer’s which could allow the disease to be diagnosed long before the first symptoms appear (so, a normal teenage hobby project, then!).
Obviously, Krtin has a great interest in science – but what sparked this interest in him?
Finally, we had a comment from Inés arguing that even more effort needed to be focused on ensuring more women in particular enter careers in science and technology. There is a significant gender gap in science, and Inés argued that you cannot encourage more women to study STEM subjects with just a clever marketing campaign. In her view, governments need to invest real money, including scholarships, to encourage women to go into science careers.
To get a response to Inés’s comment, we spoke to Cocky Booij, Director of the National Expert Organisation on Girls / Women and Science / Technology (VHTO) in the Netherlands. What would she have to say?
Well, I think you should do both things. You should start a clever marketing campaign, but meanwhile we should try to get coding in the curricula of schools in primary education. And I think for girls especially you should start extra events, such as code events, after-school clubs, etc.
For example, on the weekends and during holidays we organise code events for 50-100 schoolgirls from ages 8 to 18. And those girls experience what it’s like to really be creators using all those new technologies. And I think by doing these sort of things we make them really enthusiastic and empower them to be engaged. So, do both things.
Are European schools and universities churning out graduates with useless degrees? Are too many students choosing ‘soft’ subjects like art and history, and not enough tackling ‘hard’ subjects such as engineering and maths? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!