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While efforts have been made over the past generation to improve the take up of STEM subjects, now there is an emphasis on broadening the net by building the cultural appreciation for science and the role science skills have in society. The theory is that by attracting more people to study science in general, the pool of STEM talent will increase.
“My understanding of physics is that it gives you a whole range of skills that are useful anywhere in the modern world.”
“I think science is not seen as an enabling subject by most students and parents,” says Prof Archer. “So people say English is useful for everything, maths is seen as useful for everyday life, but people don’t tend to see science in the same way.
“Yet my understanding of physics is that it gives you a whole range of skills – problem solving, data analysis, critical thinking, numeracy – that are useful anywhere in the modern world.”
That view is borne out by the high proportion of business leaders who have a science background. In fact, among the CEOs of the top 350 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2013, 98 of them graduated in science subjects, according to research by business intelligence company QlikTech.
Prof Archer, meanwhile, is keen to stick up for any scientists – and potential scientists – out there who might just happen to have Albert Einstein-like shock hair. “I don’t think scientists themselves are the problem per se,” she says. “I think the culture of science is part of the problem and we could usefully do more to open it up.”
How STEM subjects can lead to more than just being a scientist
For young people to choose to study STEM subjects, they need to realise science is all around them