News

Brits would fail to survive an apocalypse due to lack of STEM skills

5 min read

22 February 2016

Former deputy editor

The UK’s STEM skills crisis has placed Brits in grave peril as research has found the overall understanding of what would truly support survival of an apocalypse is lacking. Let’s hope the aliens and zombies decide to stay away for a little while longer…

Image: Gene Page/AMC

The study was conducted ahead of The Big Bang Fair which runs from 16-19 March. The event celebrates science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and encourages young people to embrace careers within the industries.

Indeed, engineering ranked as the number one industry struggling to fill graduate jobs, while IT, medial and accounting were also in the top ten, which highlights the STEM problem.

Of course, part of this problem is encouraging girls to enter STEM, though we’ve seen continued attempts to bring in more diverse candidates from the likes of HS2, which has sent female engineers to visit schools.

According to the Big Bang study, 36 per cent of Brits keep a “grab bag” or essentials on standby in the event of a disaster. We’ve all seen Independence Day, after all.

Having said that, the bags would fail to keep people alive if they were required in the midst of an apocalypse, according to Lewis Dartnell, a doctor who will teach survival science at the fair.

Food, medical supplies and mobile phones were among the essentials to grab, at 61 per cent, 53 per cent and 47 per cent respectively. So should a zombie invasion take place, they’d be able to fend off hunger for while, plaster any bite marks and access Snapchat to document the events.

Just 22 per cent thought to take matches and ten per cent said they would take a bottle, which would allow water cleansing.

Dartnell insisted a fire-starting kit, water bottle, knife, food and food should all be stashed in the grab bag. He added that the best places to head to would be a beach, supermarket or golf course.

The report pointed to glass as a key for survival, with a beach playing home to sand and other raw materials. Meanwhile, a supermarket would supply enough food to sustain someone for 55 years and gold buggies can be used for their rechargeable batteries.

Read more on STEM developments:

“Clearly we shouldn’t be worrying twenty-four seven about a potential apocalypse but it’s interesting to take a snap shot of where we are now and how we’d fare – individually and as a society,” said Dartnell.

“People’s survival instincts are strong but without a greater focus on STEM skills, the speed at which we’d return to ‘society as we know it’ would be seriously impeded. Rather than duck and cover, the country needs to know how to stand and recover from any disaster.”

The study found that 68 per cent of people said they would be good with basic first aid, 61 per cent able to preserve food and 53 per cent able to grow crops and breed animals.

Comparatively, just 32 per cent said they would be able to start machines and engines, while only 32 per cent would be able to make or repair tools and 20 per cent would be able to create fuel.

Dartnell noted electricity, soap, charcoal, a lathe to craft things with and glass as the five most important things to make.

Paul Jackson, chief executive of EngineeringUK, organiser of The Big Bang Fair, said: “Many of the skills required to rebuild communities from scratch reflect those held by the professionals currently addressing the global challenges of sustainable energy, clean water supply and food security.

“Whether or not we need to rebuild society– these will be critical to our future. The shows and activities at The Big Bang Fair capture the imagination of young visitors, showing them how they could apply what they learn in the classroom to tackle the big issues of the future.”