The STEM Alliance is an international initiative, coordinated by European Schoolnet, that brings together Industries, education stakeholders and Ministries of Education to promote STEM education and careers to young Europeans and to address anticipated future skills gaps within the European Union.
The STEM Alliance departed from the observation that there is a lack of skilled STEM workers in Europe which hinders innovation. This trend is intensified by demographic transformations, lack of interest and low performance in STEM subjects, wide-spread lack of digital skills and an urging necessity to address global challenges like climate change, mobility and energy. To address these issues, the STEM Alliance gathers 16 frontline industry Partners in concerted actions to:
STEM Alliance in numbers
What is the challenge?
Rapid technological and demographic transformation combined with decreasing interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) studies and careers result in a disadvantageous situation for many companies.
While many specialists in the field will retire in the near future, STEM developments in industry and research are moving faster than students' skills in secondary and higher education. One out of five students in Europe is a "low achiever" in science and maths1 and 43% of the EU population lack basic digital skills2. As a result, many companies struggle to find skilled employees, which provides a serious challenge to the competitiveness of European industries.
What is more, the needed interest in STEM studies and careers among students is continuously deteriorating. Many STEM teachers are not familiar or comfortable with innovative pedagogies for teaching STEM subjects and making STEM education more attractive. Also guidance counsellors and career advisors struggle with the persistent disinterest of young students to consider jobs in the STEM fields. This not only aggravates the problem of companies' unmet labour needs, it also hinders the development critical, responsible and innovative citizens for the digital society of tomorrow and all its challenges such as climate change, mobility and energy.
How are the companies dealing with this situation?
Many companies are developing cooperation with higher education institutions and universities for attracting young STEM graduate talents. There are only few initiatives that target the primary and secondary school level as compared to higher education.
In addition, companies develop internally specific initiatives aiming at strengthening the importance of STEM education and STEM jobs. However, such initiatives are not necessarily widespread. Sometimes these initiatives are done on a country level or in cooperation with a national Ministry of Education, but very few initiatives are on a European scale. Furthermore, there are no platforms that would gather such initiatives to share approaches, exchange practices and discuss among companies investing in STEM education.
Generally, as companies are confronted with a severe lack of attractiveness of STEM jobs, they opt more easily for communication actions trying to give a positive image to these jobs – but very few initiatives are directed towards primary and secondary schools, teachers and students, who will be the future workers of tomorrow.
Why is it important to work at school level?
Interest in STEM often develops at a very young age3. However, many teachers (mainly primary teachers) lack the necessary STEM literacy and might not be adept in using suitable approaches on how to teach STEM as well as to raise awareness about the importance of STEM for the students' future lives.
At secondary level, S-T-E-M teachers (teachers per discipline, as a "STEM teacher" does not exist) remain very abstract and traditional in their teaching4. For the vast majority, they are disconnected from what happens in real life and industry, which results in an open gap between the world of secondary schools and the world of companies. Unfortunately, as teachers are preparing students for the world of today, the taught content will, for the most part, be outdated by the time the students graduate. These trends are perpetuated by the following factors:
- Very few teachers spend time in industry (lack of contextualisation)
- Very few teachers follow professional development activities
- Guidance counsellors/career advisors are not properly equipped for speaking about the jobs of today and the jobs of tomorrow
Two questions to tackle
Following this analysis, we are facing two concrete questions:
- How can we make all initiatives developed by companies known, so that schools can profit from them?
- How can we develop initiatives strengthening the cooperation between schools and industry and contribute to increased awareness about STEM education and STEM jobs as well as the importance of STEM in the future lives of students?
Why the STEM Alliance?
With the STEM Alliance, 16 frontline companies and associations, including the Airbus Foundation, Amgen, Cisco, Dassault Systèmes, Dell Technologies, the Foundation for Transport in Malta, the GSM Association, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, LEGO Education, Lenovo, Microsoft, Oracle, Shell, Sissa Medialab and Texas Instruments, come together to tackle these questions in a collaborative way on a European level.
Thanks to the coordination of European Schoolnet (EUN), the network of 32 Ministries of Education, the STEM Alliance builds on a large-scale outreach structure that creates synergies between European Ministries of Education, educators and industry.
As such, activities and campaigns of the STEM Alliance reach thousands of teachers and students each year and contribute to boosting awareness and visibility of STEM subjects. At the political level, the STEM Alliance High-Level Event brings together major European policy makers, education stakeholders and company representatives to promote the European STEM Education agenda.
STEM Alliance mission
The STEM Alliance provides an extensive outreach structure for major companies and European Ministries of Education which understood the need for action. Through both concerted and individual activities, the STEM Alliance and its members joined forces to:
- Promote the attractiveness and importance of STEM jobs in all industrial sectors
- Foster innovation in STEM teaching at all levels of education
- Support the competitiveness of companies by ensuring a STEM-skilled workforce
- Enhance and harmonise industry-education initiatives at national, European and global level
- Encourage diversity and inclusiveness in STEM careers
- Build knowledge on STEM education and careers by providing advocacy to industry players and policymakers
- Contextualise STEM teaching by giving real-life examples of STEM careers to students
7 STEM Alliance Key Actions
Building on an ample European network of lead industries, key policy makers and education stakeholders, the STEM Alliance conducts the following Key Actions both in concertation and on an bilateral basis with its Partners:
1. Professional Development for Teachers: The STEM Alliance provides continuous professional development opportunities to thousands of teachers and educators in the form of webinars, chats and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
2. Conferences and Online Events: The annual STEM High-Level Event promotes the European STEM Education agenda at a political level, while large-scale online events gather hundreds of education stakeholders on particular STEM topics creating opportunities for discussion and best practice exchange.
3. Campaigns and Competitions: Twice a year, the STEM Alliance mobilises thousands of projects, organisations, companies and schools across Europe and around the world to celebrate careers and studies in the fields of STEM with the STEM Discovery Campaign and the Back-to-School Campaign.
4. Pilot Projects and Resources: European Schoolnet has been running validation pilots for more than 20 years. The goal is to validate the created materials and/or procedures by testing, refining and finally mainstreaming them via professional development opportunities or dissemination campaigns.
5. Collaboration, Research and Policy Recommendations: The STEM Alliance provides evidence-based guides, best practices and conducting research amongst others on the attractiveness of STEM subjects, policies and practices in the field of STEM or STEM capacity building programmes.
6. Dissemination: Targeted dissemination campaigns capitalise on the STEM Alliance's extensive communication channels (website, newsletters, social media, articles, …) and offer the opportunity to showcase Partners' latest initiatives and resources related to STEM education and STEM careers.
7. Diversity and Sustainability in STEM: Promoting STEM education and careers to young Europeans and addressing anticipated future skills gaps is closely linked to fostering diversity and sustainability in STEM studies and careers.
Why and how you should get involved
1. Be at the frontline of European and global companies that have realised the need to tackle the STEM skills gap.
2. Benefit from the wide-reaching STEM Alliance network that brings together key education, policy and industry actors.
3. Boost your company's visibility effectively at European level in STEM-related media outputs.
4. Initiate concrete activities and campaigns targeted at teachers and students across Europe conducted with the STEM Alliance.
5. Gain access and contribute to STEM Alliance knowledge, research papers and reports.
6. Shape Europe's STEM discourse by discussing best practices in topic-specific workshops, webinars and high-level events.
7. Enable your business to further develop partnerships with education stakeholders on local, national and European levels.
We are looking forward to your message to:
Björn Bachmann (firstname.lastname@example.org), STEM Alliance Project Manager
Rocio Benito (email@example.com), STEM Alliance Press and Communications Officer
Agueda Gras-Velazquez (firstname.lastname@example.org), Science Programme Manager at EUN
1 OECD (2019), "PISA 2015 - PISA Results in Focus", available at http://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisa-2015-results-in-focus.pdf
2 European Commission (2019), "Digital Economy and Society Index Report 2019 – Human Capital", available at https://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/dae/document.cfm?doc_id=59976
3 McClure, E. R., Guernsey, L., Clements, D. H., Bales, S. N., Nichols, J., Kendall-Taylor, N., & Levine, M. H. (2017), "STEM starts early: Grounding science, technology, engineering, and math education in early childhood", New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop; Donohue, C., & Schomburg, R. (2017), "Technology and interactive media in early childhood programs", Young Children, 72(4), 72.
4 European Schoolnet (2018), "Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education Policies in Europe", Scientix Observatory report, European Schoolnet, Brussels.