HEFCE commissioned this research to inform the work of its Strategically Important and Vulnerable Subjects advisory group. The group was charged by Lord Sainsbury's review of Science and Innovation, 'The Race to the Top', with publishing an annual report on graduate supply and demand in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. The two research reports informed the group's understanding, and subsequent policy development, about the demand for vulnerable skills and subjects in English HE. The HEFCE SIVS Advisory Group's 2009 report (HEFCE 2010/09) is also available.
The report from SQW examines the strengths and weaknesses of commonly used proxies or metrics that are used to inform forecasts about the demand for vulnerable subjects or skills, and also examines the accuracy of previous forecasts. The research finds there is no single adequate data set on skills demand, either for STEM or non-STEM subjects. But there are a variety of sources that can provide an overview of market pressures.
SQW also produced an overview table listing a number of demand reports and their key messages: it is published as Appendix 3 to HEFCE 2010/09.
The second report tasked WM Enterprise with understanding what employers mean when they express a desire to recruit STEM graduates, how they do so, and what happens when they are unable to recruit the people they want.
The research finds that STEM employers typically expect more from graduates than they did in the past. Some of the employers questioned expressed concern about the quality of graduates and their 'soft' skills, such as team working, communication and leadership. Business location may also restrict the pool of potential candidates for some employers, but employers have a number of responses if they are unable to immediately access the skill they require.