New research released today by Nestlé UK & Ireland has revealed a stark gap between 14 to 16 year olds’ enthusiasm for science and maths and Irish businesses’ ability to hire the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) employees they need.

The research carried out by Populus showed nearly half of businesses (45%) feel that Ireland is facing a worrying STEM skills crisis and there are not enough young people studying maths and science to meet future demand. More than half of businesses (51%) working in a STEM-related field believe that there has been no improvement in the availability of appropriately skilled recruits in the past five years.

Nestlé’s research shows that nearly three-quarters (73%) of 14 to 16 year olds say they would consider a career in a STEM-related industry, with nearly two-fifths (39%) citing a good salary as the main motivation. However, more than half (59%) say they know little or nothing about the types of jobs that are on offer, with fewer females (37%) aware of career opportunities in a STEM-related field than males (45%).

In total, Populus interviewed 103 decision makers at Irish STEM businesses, 100 science and maths teachers at secondary schools and 307 14-16 year old students in Ireland.

Many science and maths teachers are also in the dark, with nearly half (46%) of those surveyed admitting that they do not know what STEM-related businesses are looking for in new recruits. Therefore, there is a clear need for an improvement in career guidance in schools and colleges and for teachers to have more direct exposure to industry.

The research also shows how Irish businesses are taking on responsibility for the promotion of STEM-related careers amongst young people in Ireland. Over two-fifths (43%) are taking an active role in promoting STEM skills, while nearly two-thirds (61%) say stronger relationships between local schools, colleges and businesses would help deliver quality work experience for STEM careers.

Commenting on the results, Deirdre O’Donoghue Country Manager of Nestlé Ireland, said:

“It is a promising sign that so many young people in Ireland would consider pursuing a career in a STEM related industry. However, there is evidently a breakdown that needs to be addressed, as while young people are interested in STEM subjects at schools, the uptake of careers in these areas is low, with many saying they don’t know enough about the careers that are available.” 

“We are committed to helping bridge this gap and are proud to be delivering a range of initiatives across our two sites in Ireland to inspire and inform young people. It is essential that businesses play their part and I am delighted to see that more and more companies are engaging with schools and colleges to help highlight the vast and diverse number of rewarding careers on offer.”