With the unparalleled expertise of 34,000 highly-skilled employees around the globe, Babcock, the UK’s market leading engineering support services company delivers complex and critical asset support to a wide range Commercial and Defence markets across the United Kingdom and overseas.

Using that extensive knowledge and experience Babcock has collaborated with Industrial Cadets to offer accredited work experience to pupils from UTC Plymouth to help them make informed decisions about future careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

During the work experience at Devonport Royal Dockyard, Year 10 and 11 students from the university technical college were tasked with designing and building models that would quickly and safely remove a toy helicopter from ‘contaminated water’ in a fish tank.

To do this they separated into ten teams, each being given a set number of tools to complete the task successfully. Additional equipment could be bought, but this would mean a deduction in points. No human contact with the tank or spillages were allowed and all ‘contaminated’ items had to be placed in air tight containers. Students had to keep a boundary of 50mm away from the sides of the tank and not touch it with any of the devices they used.

At the end of the exercise each team had to present to, and answer questions from, a panel of three judges on how it achieved the brief before being scored for its solution. The great news is that 57 of the students who took part in the programme graduated as ‘Silver Level’ Industrial Cadets.

To address STEM skill shortages the UK is currently engaged in various initiatives to give young people a better understanding of the exciting opportunities offered by a career in science and engineering. A report released by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) labeled UK school leavers as the worst in Europe for essential skills, with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) reporting that a lack of high quality apprenticeships is exacerbating numeracy and literacy problems, creating an unskilled workforce.

The demand for people with STEM skills is obvious. The Royal Academy of Engineering says that, as a country, we need at least a 50% increase in STEM graduates to compete on a global footing in the future. This is why initiatives like Industrial Cadets and the Babcock work experience programme play a key role in the overall contribution of bridging the UK skills gap crisis.