Tech event aims to STEM teen apathy

Students from Firth Park Academy with Philip English of RobotCenter at TeenTech. Picture: Andrew Roe
Students from Firth Park Academy with Philip English of RobotCenter at TeenTech. Picture: Andrew Roe
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Chronic, desperate, timebomb - all words used to describe the science and tech skills shortage during a hands-on exhibition for 12-year-olds in South Yorkshire.

Hundreds of youngsters from 23 schools solved puzzles and played with equipment at stands set up by 28 companies, with an emphasis on fun.

But behind the smiles, bosses will be praying some of them will choose science, technology, engineering or maths - STEM - subjects when selecting their GCSEs next year.

TeenTech, at Doncaster Racecourse, was privately organised and funded.

Fronted by former Tomorrow’s World star Maggie Philbin, it aims to bridge the skills gap created by an ageing workforce and lack of interest in young people.

It is one of a host of events with the same mission, including science week, apprenticeship week and careers week.

More locally, The Big Bang Fair in June and July - also at the Racecourse - will be 10 times the size of TeenTech and covers all of Yorkshire.

In Sheffield, Get Up To Speed will be staged at Magna for the first time on April 22.

Paul Mitchell, of TeenTech headline sponsors Efficiency North - a buyers’ club for social housing maintenance - said there was a “desperate” skills gap in the construction industry, with a claimed 750,000 people needed.

He added: “The sector has picked up dramatically in the last 12 months and companies are having to ask workers to stay on past retirement because they can’t be replaced.”

Toni Hunter, of the Vulcan to the Sky charity - owners of the sole 1950s bomber still flying - said there was a seven per cent shortfall of aeronautical engineers in the UK. And Martin Watson of IBM said the computer industry faced a double-edged problem - a chronic lack of recruits and huge training costs due to the need to constantly update skills.

Companies attending included AESSEAL, Axita, Bridon, Skanska, EDF, JRI Orthopaedics, JVC, Maplin, Mondelez, National Grid, Network Rail and Pegler.