Math, Science And Engineering Graduates Pick Other Careers

Governments are desperate to lure children into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects at school. STEM, after all, will be the driving force of the 21st century economy. But it turns out, getting students to study asymptotes and dynamic semantics in college isn't enough. At graduation, a good chunk of those students abandon their STEM skills forever.

According to the U.K.'s Higher Education Statistics Agency, one in seven of the country's 57,645 STEM graduates last year went to work in retail. 11 percent pursued property development and 8 percent became teachers, reports The Telegraph.

In contrast, only 6.5 percent went into transport and communications, slightly less entered manufacturing, just 450 took jobs in the utilities industry, and a combined 1 percent pursued either agriculture, forestry, fishing, or mining and quarrying

"People don't think of working in engineering as a very interesting or sexy career," Lynn Tomkins, U.K. operations director at engineering and manufacturing skills council Semta, told The Telegraph.

This impacts female STEM students in particular. Already rare in their fields, only half of them will end up in a job where they use their technical skills.

According to a study published last week, when women are cued to think about romance, they become less interested in STEM jobs. Lab coats, coding, and axle grease don't mesh well, apparently, with common ideas of feminine sex appeal.

The problem, according to Tomkins, is that smaller, less-known businesses fail to recruit students. As a result, new graduates, if they're rejected from the big, popular companies like Rolls Royce or BAE Systems, simply enter a different field.

A fifth of U.K. companies are worried that they won't be able to hire enough qualified engineers, technicians and IT staff in the next year, according to the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), partly because applicants don't have enough "practical experience."

This could be solved, however, if more than one in four engineering companies offered apprenticeships.

If the U.K. and other countries hope knowledge economies of the future, they don't just have to encourage children to study math and science. They have to make it easy and appealing for students to make it their careers.

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