Agriculture can bridge STEM skills gap, organisations say

The roundtable raised the barriers preventing young people from taking up important STEM careers
The roundtable raised the barriers preventing young people from taking up important STEM careers

Organisations across the farming and education sectors have joined forces for the first time to discuss the STEM skills gap and the role agriculture can play.

The roundtable highlighted the barriers which are preventing young people from taking up important Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) careers.

This included a lack of exciting experiences for younger children, with the groups concluding that teaching STEM subjects through real-life scenarios such as agriculture can help ignite their passion for the subjects.

The group, which included representatives from the Association for Science Education, Rothamsted Research and Warwick University, pledged to work together to ensure agriculture can inspire learning.

The roundtable follows the publication of a new report by the NFU =which highlighted the effectiveness of using agriculture as a tool to teach STEM.

During the meeting, the union's president Minette Batters spoke about how agriculture-based topics - designed to align to the school curriculums in both England and Wales - had been to teach STEM subjects.

“The skills gap we are seeing in STEM careers is not just happening in agriculture, but across the whole economy,” Mrs Batters explained.

“It is vital that we encourage more young people into these roles by exposing them to the opportunities and potential as early as possible.

“We know from successful past experiences of the NFU Education programme that teaching STEM subjects using agriculture can help lay the pathway for STEM careers in the future."

Charles Nicklin, CEO at the Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgre), said there were 'so many' careers that children could go into within agriculture, not just farming.

"Over this next decade we are in for a real explosion in technology; technology in agriculture has significantly increased over the past ten years.

"The next steps will be developments in autonomous vehicles, drones and increased usage of precision agriculture techniques.

“All of this is going to need some really talented people, not only to design and develop the technology but to commission it on farms, advise farmers on how to use it.

"This means more people coming from outside agriculture into the industry, demolishing the opinion that you need to be born into it."