STEM Skills Gap – Dispelling the myths and closing the gap

Categories: Springtelligence|736 words|3.7 min read|By |Published On: September 20th, 2018|

There exists a skills gap in many manufacturing sectors, and this is as true of springmaking as any other sector. This applies in most countries today as manufacturing careers are viewed unfavourably by school children at the time they are selecting the subjects they wish to study at the end of their school career, or when applying for University.

Jobs in digital and the service sector, in clean warm offices, are attracting too large a proportion of the able students, and this has been true for the many years now.

Careers in engineering and manufacturing are perceived as ‘dirty’ jobs, with poor rates of pay. However, recent research found that this is simply not the case.

The research, conducted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology found that those who’ve pursued STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) in their education or career earn more, get on the property ladder quicker and save more than those who haven’t pursued STEM subjects.

A third (34%) of those who studied or work in STEM earn between £41,000 to £100,000 per annum, compared with just 7% of non-STEM workers. Over four times as many workers with a STEM background (51.5%)  also started their careers with a salary of over £21,000, compared to only 11.3% of those in non-technical careers.

And this financial security translates into bricks and mortar. Nearly three quarters (73%) of the STEM respondents own a property, compared with 52% of the non-STEM contingent.

STEM workers were also more likely to save money with the majority (62%) being able to save 10-20% of each month’s salary, compared with the majority of non-STEM workers (75%) being able to save between 0-10% of theirs.

Despite this, and engineering being one of the most productive sectors in the UK economy, there is a shortage of qualified engineering graduates, and a lack of diversity in the profession – the engineering workforce is 94% white and 91% male.

Campaigns such as ‘2018 The Year of Engineering’, a joint initiative between the government and industry, are aiming to change that by giving thousands of young people inspiring experiences of engineering, to tackle the skills gap and widen the pool of young people who join the profession.

A personal perspective on the skills gap occurred when one of my daughters told her school that she wanted to be an engineer. The school discouraged this option because she was very good at English and geography, but less good at maths. They wouldn’t offer her the subjects she wanted at 16, so she left school (with my permission) and went to college where her chosen subjects were offered. She did well enough to gain a place at Liverpool University to study engineering, gained a first class masters degree and became a railway engineer – a career her 9-year-old daughter also wants to follow.

Most other students would have followed the school advice and joined the ranks of people with qualifications of no use to manufacturing. The question arises, how to close this skills gap?

A quick search on the internet will give rise to a myriad of different answers to this question, and no clear consensus is evident. For training in the craft skills of spring manufacture, very few possibilities for training exist outside the workplace. A spring coiler is almost certain to have to learn the skills required from more experienced colleagues on the shop floor, probably with some guidance from managers. For managers, technicians, salesmen and office staff who require an understanding of the whole process route possibilities for spring manufacture, there are a few providers of training courses around the world.

However, companies like JB Springs are aiming to change that by developing a structured training programme for their employees, as well as making some of the resources available in the public domain.

Their ‘Springtelligence’ programme; is an evolving series of learning experiences to engage and inspire the next generation of spring engineers as well as providing them with knowledge and skills in the areas of spring engineering and manufacturing.

For more information on Springtelligence visit

This article was originally written by Mark Hayes and has been repurposed and updated for JB Springs’ Springtelligence blog with Mark’s permission.

Mark is a partner in the Springtelligence project for whom he will write a text book and educational resources. He has published more than 100 papers and articles on all aspects of spring technology, and these may be found on