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STEM careers offer work/life balance: survey

STEM careers are growing rapidly but there are still some barriers standing in the way of building the workforce Australia needs

More than 70% of STEM-qualified people are satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs and work environment, and almost 70% are happy with their work/life balance, according to a new report commissioned by the Office of the Chief Scientist.

The report, which included a survey of almost 3,500 STEM-qualified people, also found 60% are satisfied or very satisfied with job security and pay.

The government has been reviewing the barriers to STEM careers and what’s needed to help develop the STEM workforce.

STEM occupations have been growing at more than twice the rate of non-STEM occupations and this trend is set to continue over the next five years, with the National Science Council projecting growth of 12.9%.

“To meet our urgent workforce needs, not only must Australia expand the number of people acquiring STEM qualifications and entering our STEM workforce: we must also get better at retaining people in STEM careers,” the report’s authors say.

“Forging stronger connections and talent movement across the breadth of Australia’s STEM sector will help to achieve this goal: diverse and interesting careers are a wellspring of both innovation and talent retention.”

Chief Scientist Cathy Foley says while we need to increase the number of people studying STEM, there’s a mismatch between demand and supply.

“We’re not necessarily training people in the right areas – engineering, mathematics and physics, for example, are areas of chronic shortage,” Foley says.

But the report also identified some handbrakes to more people choosing and staying in a STEM career, with more work required in a number of areas including workplace flexibility and job security, expanding access to the STEM skills required by employers, and policies to encourage more businesses to invest in research and development in order to boost STEM careers.

Despite the challenges of attracting and keeping more STEM workers, those in the field have a positive view of their career prospects. 64% of people with STEM qualifications considered their career prospects ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’. Only 9% felt their career prospects were poor. And 63% were ‘quite confident’ or ‘very confident’ they would be working in STEM in five years.

Looking for STEM inspiration? Try our A-Z of STEM careers

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