GSK launches £6m programme to boost STEM career progression for young people from under-represented groups in the UK
GSK plc today announced the launch of a £6m, 10-year STEM equity programme, designed to inspire and support the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians from under-represented groups in the UK.
The company’s new UK STEM equity programme aims to help reduce the significant barriers to entry faced by women and young girls, people from lower socio-economic backgrounds and Black communities (under-represented groups), which limit STEM career opportunities and contribute to the lack of diversity in STEM sectors.
A report commissioned by STEM Learning using data from the Office for National Statistics found significant differences in engagement with and attainment in STEM GCSEs and A-Levels across gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background. This ‘STEM equity gap’ widens as young people progress into the workforce.
Mentoring young people aged 11-25 from under-represented groups, where one-to-one relationships are developed with mentors working in STEM who share tools and guidance to aid personal and professional development is highly effective in supporting them through STEM education.
The UK Education Endowment Foundation has calculated that the average benefit of mentoring – measured in terms of doing better in school – is equivalent to spending two additional months in the classroom, with the best programmes providing a benefit equivalent to an additional five months.
Based on this evidence, the first initiative GSK will fund is high-quality STEM mentoring, which will reach almost 4,000 young people across the UK in the first three years, in collaboration with five established grassroots partner organisations, Stemettes, STEM Learning, the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers (AFBE), Covent Garden Dragon Hall Trust, and Spark!. In addition, GSK is encouraging employees working in STEM to become mentors by accessing opportunities from partner organisations through its employee volunteering portal.
The funding from GSK will expand and scale up existing mentoring models for STEM education in the UK and will focus on the bottom 25% of STEM ‘cold spot’ locations identified by the British Science Association, to target local communities where science infrastructure and education is most limited.
Emma Walmsley, CEO, GSK said: “Despite the breath-taking pace and promise of this age of science and technology, only human talent can realise the impact these advances make possible. And we know that diverse teams perform better, innovate better and help us better understand the diverse patients we serve. For the UK to be a leader in science and technology, we must remove barriers in STEM that limit people’s potential. That’s why GSK is very proud to announce new investment and new partnerships to boost STEM education and career progression among under-represented groups in the UK.”
Overall, it’s estimated the UK economy suffers a loss of £1.5bn per year due to STEM skills shortages. Independent research commissioned by GSK reveals that if there was a nationwide roll-out of STEM mentoring targeting young people from under-represented groups, this could have a significant positive effect on the UK economy.