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Lack of STEM skills is bad for business

A shortage of science, technology, engineering and maths skills is restricting innovation in Australian businesses, a report by the Australian Industry Group has said.

The report is based on a survey of 500 employers, 24.9 per cent of whom identified a lack of applicants as a barrier to recruiting people with STEM skills. This was a particular problem for mining and services businesses. The report’s authors argue that the lack of available employees means businesses are struggling to be innovative and productive.

The group is calling for increased collaboration between universities and businesses on research projects, and for industry to be more involved in promoting STEM skills in education and training. It also argues for semester-long work placements for all undergraduates in STEM subjects, a suggestion first put forward by the government’s chief scientist, Ian Chubb.

In response to the report, Chubb said that the skills shortage needs attention and that he has recruited a specialist in STEM skills to work on it. “We have to find a way to put the right people in the right places at the right time. This is a challenge of national proportions and it will require the focus and effort of every sector to meet it,’’ Chubb said in a statement. “If we are to address this STEM skills shortage, we need to fix the science and maths supply line and build better bridges between our educators and employers,’’ he said.