In March 2022, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Diversity & Inclusion in Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) announced a new project - an investigation on regional STEM skills inequity.

The APPG will commission data analysis of STEM skills provision in the UK. This will be carried out at a constituency level, helping to understand how opportunities vary across the country and intersect with regional inequity. The work seeks to identify place-based barriers to STEM, examining links between minoritised communities and access to education and/or training.

Find out more about the APPG on D&I in STEM

STEM skills for all?

The Government have their sights set on establishing the UK as a ‘global science superpower’ and they’ve also made some pretty big promises in the levelling up agenda. References to research and development (R&D) in the levelling up missions indicate that the Government is serious about investing in a science workforce, and seemingly serious about making sure people from all backgrounds and areas of the UK have access to these opportunities.

Pledges include increasing public spending for R&D outside the South East of England by 40%, and an investment of £26 billion towards the green industrial revolution.

The state of STEM

We know that there is underrepresentation of historically marginalised communities in STEM. In April 2022, findings from the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Missing Elements report revealed systemic racial discrimination in the chemical sciences with 0% of UK chemistry professors being Black. Nature’s salary and job satisfaction survey from 2021 showed that workers from less affluent backgrounds are underrepresented in the sector and that, in addition to ethnicity, respondents experience discrimination due to their age, gender, disability and sexual orientation.

In March 2022, the BSA released a report on engagement with science by local authority. Within this, we looked at STEM businesses, graduates and R&D expenditure as well as other measures of how present STEM is in a region. We found that adjacent regions can have opposing experiences of science – a range of factors such as urbanisation and local demographics affect whether the surrounding population can readily access STEM skills and/or engage with science.

The APPG’s report on inequity in the STEM workforce (2021) found that regional factors affect the type, quality and quantity of job opportunities available. R&D investment is disparate, with London and the South East benefitting from considerably more funding compared to Wales and the Midlands, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The report concluded that fewer STEM career opportunities exist for people living outside of the relatively affluent ‘golden triangle’ area of London, Cambridge and Oxford.

So, besides creating more opportunities for those outside of areas currently best served by STEM investment to participate, the sector must demonstrate its willingness to create environments with supportive structures to nurture the people in it.

Regional STEM skills provision

The levelling up missions and ambitions can – and should – work together to build a successful and representative STEM sector. Diversity and inclusion are topics that are being talked more often and more seriously, with many wising up to the systemic problems affecting minoritised groups. Fortunately, we’re seeing company boards, sector bodies, learned societies and other institutions having the conversations to start transforming the inequitable conditions in STEM today.

Scrutinising regional STEM skills inequity through this APPG project will highlight particular geographic locations lacking attention in this key area of economic development, and help the STEM sector direct resources where they are most needed to support the future workforce.

Request for proposals

The APPG is looking for a data consultant or agency to undertake this mapping work of STEM skills in the UK. The deadline for proposals is 9.00am on Monday 30 May 2022. Find out more about the brief.

Visit the APPG on Diversity & Inclusion in STEM