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Australian Industry Group

Ai Group calls for national strategy to address crippling STEM skill shortages

12 February 2015

Ai Group calls for national strategy to address crippling STEM skill shortages

“A lack of critical Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills among the current and emerging workforce is holding back Australian employers in their quest to be more innovative, productive and competitive;” Australian Industry Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said today.

The negative implications for our economy were highlighted in an Ai Group report released today - Progressing STEM Skills in Australia – which included survey results from more than 300 businesses across the economy.  The survey found that businesses are having difficulty recruiting employees with STEM skills including technicians and trade workers (44 per cent), professionals (21 per cent) and managers (19 per cent).

"This report demonstrates the significant challenges facing Australia's educators and employers to adequately skill the workforce required to build a competitive economy for the future,” Mr Willox said

"Over 36 per cent of the employers surveyed reported their greatest barrier to recruitment of staff with STEM skills to be a lack of qualifications relevant to their business.  Other key barriers included a lack of workplace experience and employability skills (34 per cent) and a lack of applicants with STEM skills (29 per cent).

"STEM skills are essential for the future economic and social well-being of the nation and employment in this area grew about 1.5 times the rate of other jobs in recent years.  Despite this, enrolments and the number of graduates with STEM qualifications continue to decline and secondary school enrolments in mathematics and science are also decreasing. Accordingly the pipeline of STEM skills to the workforce remains perilous.

"There is an urgent need to develop a national STEM skills strategy to lift the level of STEM qualified employees in the workforce to enable the Australian economy to be more competitive and prosperous” Mr Willox said.

Key findings:

·                STEM skills are increasingly important for the workforce and the competitiveness of the Australian economy.

·                Australia is underperforming internationally compared to STEM strong countries.

·                Participation by school students in STEM related subjects is decreasing and our performance in international comparisons is below many other countries.

·                Participation by university students in STEM related disciplines is not keeping pace with the needs of the economy and is low compared to other similar economies.

·                Employers continue to experience difficulties recruiting STEM qualified staff, especially as technicians and trade workers.

·                Australia lacks a national STEM skills strategy and is the only country in the OECD without a science or technology strategy.

·                Australian Government financial assistance to STEM is thinly dispersed, non-systemic and does not contribute to a national approach.

·                School industry STEM initiatives are characterised by un-coordinated and non-systemic activity.

·                University industry collaboration, including in STEM fields, is low by international comparisons.

·                There is a need to develop more engaging school curriculum and pedagogy to attract students to STEM and a need to increase the STEM qualified teaching workforce.


The report was released at the Improving STEM Education and Skills Conference event in Melbourne today.

Link to full report


Media Enquiries:                   Tony Melville – 0419 190 347