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Bridging the Gap: Barriers Faced by Black Country Students and Children in STEM

BAME girl and young boy doing STEM in a lab

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and focuses on the group of subjects that fall within these four areas of study. 

As some of the fastest growing industries in the world, artificial intelligence, data science and software development are all grounded in STEM subjects. This has led to an increase in the need for more STEM-educated individuals.

However, for many students, particularly those from low-income households, low socio-economic backgrounds and BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) communities, pursuing a career in STEM has many barriers that limit their participation and access. These barriers are not only detrimental to individual students whose career in STEM has been limited, but also the community as a whole, where potential remains unexplored. 

What barriers are students in the Black Country facing? 

The Black Country has pockets of the highest deprivation in the UK and a large proportion of the workforce is employed by small and midsize businesses, reducing the potential for growth and local job creation. Therefore, for students across the Black Country the prospect of a career in STEM seems limited, with a number of barriers to face. 

Socio-Economic Background 

Students from a low socio-economic background face several hurdles in pursuing a career in STEM. This is largely due to financial constraints and systemic inequalities. A survey conducted by Teach First in January 2024 with more than 1,000 young people aged between 11 and 16 in the UK, found that only 41.8% of those from lower socio-economic backgrounds would consider a STEM career.

Financial constraint is one of the biggest challenges facing families, as many STEM related careers require a university degree. With university in England now costing £9,250 a year, this is not feasible for many families. While there are scholarships and financial aid available to help tackle financial barriers they are not easy to attain. A lower income could also limit access to STEM resources, including technology such as devices and software applications, as well as being able to attend extracurricular programmes such as workshops. 

Coming from a lower socio-economic background can also mean a lack of information and knowledge around STEM, both from students and their parents. Teach First found that 51% of parents from a lower socio-economic background, believe their children are ‘unlikely’ to have a career in STEM. Consequently, parents are unlikely to discuss taking STEM-based subjects with their children. Parents also lack the confidence to talk about careers, with only 28% of parents from low education and income households indicating they were confident giving their child advice about careers in engineering.

Underrepresentation of BAME Groups 

Nationally, 14% of the population are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. While Sandwell (40%), Walsall (28%) and Wolverhampton (39%) are above the national average. 

There is a significant underrepresentation of people from BAME backgrounds in STEM, with only 8% of the STEM workforce coming from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds in the UK in 2023. BAME groups face many barriers that may prevent them from pursuing a career in STEM, mainly lack of representation in the industry. Enhanced visibility and diverse representation would allow students to strive for what seems attainable as they ‘look like them’. Students from underrepresented BAME groups may also struggle to access mentors or role models who share their background and can provide guidance and support. 

Gender Bias 

There is a notable gender bias in STEM-based fields, as many roles in science and technology are often male dominated. Women remain underrepresented, accounting for only 24% of the STEM workforce in the UK as of 2021. As a result, girls have been discouraged from pursuing a career in STEM or studying STEM-based subjects. The UK technology sector is predicted to grow by £30bn by 2025, yet it is still estimated that there will still only be one qualified woman for every 115 roles. Females also face many other challenges in pursuing a career in STEM including; sexism in the workplace, imposter syndrome and not having the same encouragement as males. 

Careers Guidance and Curriculum Enhancement 

For students, young people and children to consider a career in STEM, they must be given the capabilities to do so and the key to this is a good education. However, students attending low tier schools are not getting the same guidance and academic preparation to undertake a career in STEM as high tier schools. In 2021, 39% of young people from low education and income backgrounds stated that their teacher had specifically encouraged them to continue with science education, compared with 61% of young people from high education and income backgrounds.

There is a severe lack of science and maths teachers in the UK, with disadvantaged communities more likely to be unable to fill vacancies. With nearly 9 in 10 parents stating their children’s school needs more high-quality maths and science teachers, this can also limit the number of students pursuing STEM subjects. 

Why do we need a diverse and inclusive STEM workforce? 

It is crucial that we break down these barriers and foster inclusivity, so the potential of all students can be unleashed, regardless of their background. Diverse teams produce more creative and innovative solutions, meaning STEM industries can harness this through the power of different perspectives, experiences and ideas. 

At Make More we want to empower students in the Black Country to dive headfirst into the world of STEM. We offer programmes to help address the difficulties faced by underrepresented communities in accessing STEM opportunities.

We will be running two STEM workshops in August: 

Learn more or sign up to our Game Design Workshop here:

Learn more or sign up to our Robot Wars workshop here:

Read the Project Report from our recent STEM Pop-up workshops here: 


Reference list

Archbold, J. (2024). UK STEM skills shortage ‘at risk of growing’ as low-income parents fear for children’s prospects | Teach First. [online] Available at:

Circuit, P. (2024). What is STEM? [online] Available at:

Education Executive (2024). NEWS: Parents deterred: STEM careers ‘stitched up’ | Edexec. [online] Education Executive . Available at: [Accessed 6 Jun. 2024].

EngineeringUK (2022). Impact of socio- economic background on early perceptions of engineering. [online] EngineeringUK. Available at:

HE Professional Team (2023). Empowering Underrepresented Minority Students: Strategies for Success in Higher Education. [online] HE Professional. Available at: [Accessed 5 Jun. 2024].

Hire STEM Women (n.d.). Social mobility in STEM & Technology – Hire STEM Women. [online] Available at:

InGenius Science Learning Network (n.d.). Increasing young people’s involvement in STEM careers. [online] Available at:

Jack (2022). Does Further and Higher Education Prepare STEM Students for a Career in Engineering? [online] FE News. Available at: [Accessed 6 Jun. 2024].

Middleton, S. (n.d.). BIPOC STEM network launches. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Jun. 2024].

Newsome, R. and Toderasc, A. (2023). Equity in STEM education: overcoming barriers and promoting inclusivity. [online] Available at:

researchfeatures (2021). In2scienceUK: Facilitating social mobility in STEM. [online] Research Features. Available at: [Accessed 5 Jun. 2024].

Thomas, I. (2008). The Urgency of Greater Diversity in the UK’s STEM Workforce. [online] Black History Month 2023. Available at:

West Midlands Combined Authority (n.d.). Local Focus: The Black Country. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Jun. 2024].

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