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Given that STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields are seen as a gateway to economic growth and innovation, the shortage of STEM students is an often-heard lament among policy makers and business leaders across Europe. This concern is growing in light of looming demographic changes, which will see a high replacement demand for high-skilled STEM professionals in the coming years. To answer the eternal question of whether the STEM pipeline needs to be expanded, the European Commission has commissioned a study titled Does Europe need more STEM graduates?. The study, produced by the Danish Technological Institute, provides an overview of the current and projected supply of and demand for STEM graduate and a more detailed assessment of STEM shortages in six member states.
The study offers little evidence of a current STEM crunch in Europe, finding no overall quantitative shortages of STEM skills at an aggregate EU level. However, it did identify regional shortages and skills mismatches and bottlenecks, in particular in engineering and information and communications technology. Rather than a result of low STEM graduation rates, these shortages appear to be caused by a mix of low investment in the continuing education of the existing STEM workforce; employer demand for highly specialised skills and experience; under-employment of mobile STEM graduates and reluctance to hire graduates with foreign STEM qualifications; barriers to transition of recent graduates to the labour market; little emphasis of career guidance of SMEs; and a large share of graduates ending up in non-core STEM jobs.