STEM funding timely as two out of three workers admit to lacking skills

  • UK workers less likely to possess STEM skills than those in other nations
  • Millennials more confident in their abilities than other generations


Two out of three UK workers lack confidence in their STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills, according to a survey from PwC. The analysis is published following the launch of the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, which pledged a £406m funding boost for STEM skills.

More than 10,000 people across the UK, Germany, China, India and the US took part in the survey, including around 2,000 from the UK, undertaken as part of PwC’s Workforce of the Future study.

The report found that only 33% of UK workers agree or strongly agree that they possess STEM skills compared to 74% in India, 59% in China, 55% in the US and 44% in Germany. The average across all the surveyed countries was 53%.

Confidence is slightly higher among UK millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996 and also known as Generation Y), with 40% believing they possess STEM skills. However, that figure falls to 31% for those in Generation X (born between 1966 - 1980), dropping to 29% among baby boomers (1947-1965).

Nearly seven out of 10 UK millennials (68%) are confident they possess digital skills, although at 61% the overall figure for the UK is below the 69% global average. 83% of those surveyed from the UK say they possess problem solving skills against a global average of 85%.

64% of those surveyed from Generation Y are confident they possess creativity and innovation skills with the figure dropping to 59% across all generations. This falls well below the 74% global average with confidence among workers in India (88%) and the US (77%) particularly high.


Peter Brown, partner in PwC’s people and HR consulting practice, said:


“It’s encouraging that confidence in STEM skills is higher among millennials than older generations. Given the comparative overall lack of confidence within the UK, the recent focus on STEM funding and technology in general is hugely welcome. Future prosperity will be driven by a highly-skilled, flexible and innovative workforce.


“The need for investment in skills has rightly been recognised and now government, business and education must work together to deliver the skills and experience for the future.”


The study also found that more than half (56%) of UK respondents believe it is their own responsibility to update their skills rather than their employers - some way below the global average of 74%. Workers from India (88%) and the US (79%) were most likely to take personal responsibility.


Alex Wilson, head of PwC’s people and HR consulting practice, said:


“This study paints a clear picture of a country with a relatively cautious confidence in skills and training. Recent policy announcements highlight a clear recognition within Government that education and training will play an integral role in the UK solving its productivity puzzle.


“With near record employment and the fourth industrial revolution at the door, now is the ideal time to build upon the relative positivity of the younger generation. The UK needs an open conversation about the future of jobs and needs to build upon the significant steps taken in the Industrial Strategy to ensure future prosperity.”



Notes to editors:

About Workforce of the future

The views of 10,000 workers’ is based on a survey conducted in May 2017 of 10,029 members of the general public (with just over 2,000 surveyed in each of China, India, Germany, the UK and the US). Respondents included workers, retired people, unemployed and students in each country.

A copy of the report can be downloaded at

The research was undertaken as part of PwC’s Workforce of the Future report, which examines four worlds of work in 2030 to show how competing forces, including automation, are shaping the workforces of the future. Each scenario has significant implications for the world of work, which cannot be ignored by governments, organisations or individuals.

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