Sir Patrick Vallance champions the need for a pipeline of highly talented AND versatile scientists and engineers to deliver on exciting and challenging work that will make a difference to the lives of people across the UK.
Written by Sir Patrick Vallance
When I took up the role of Government Chief Scientific Adviser and head of the Government Science and Engineering (GSE) Profession in 2018, I could not have predicted the events of the last 14 months. Scientists and engineers have found themselves thrust into the limelight, while the world battled COVID-19 and a race started to find vaccines and treatments. Thankfully, we are now in a position where we have several safe and effective vaccines, and are ensuring plans are in place to prepare for a future pandemic. In large part, this has been down to the hard work of scientists and engineers across academia, industry, and government both in the UK and around the world.
However, the impact of the pandemic on the UK and government needs little explanation. Over the last 14 months we have all innovated and learnt from each other by providing challenging and creative solutions to problems. Despite the many challenges, this is an extremely exciting time to be a graduate, as people turn to scientific advice to support decision making.
I know how important it is to have science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills in government and was proud to launch the GSE 2021 Strategy as part of my role as head of GSE. The strategy outlines a commitment to increasing and supporting STEM talent which is diverse and reflective of the society we represent. The GSE Profession offers a network of people, products and tools that can support graduates from the start of their career, and help them to become highly influential and effective scientists and engineers in government.
The GSE profession has been supporting new joiners to the Civil Service through the Science & Engineering Fast Stream (SEFS) Programme. The programme has grown steadily across the years starting with a small cohort of 2 in 2014 with another 47 having joined the scheme in October 2021.
The breadth of opportunity for scientists and engineers within the Civil Service is vast. From creating new requirements and standards, to applying scientific knowledge to policy, to conducting critical analyses or generating evidence that will inform decision making. These roles are vital to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the society we represent, and I believe it is important that there are leaders in government with this technical knowledge and skills to drive innovation and success.
Government needs a pipeline of highly talented AND versatile scientists and engineers to deliver on exciting and challenging work that will make a difference to the lives of people across the UK. We must now act together to build an enduring science and engineering capability within government that is equipped to face the challenges of the future. This will be essential as we emerge from the pandemic and refocus on complex, cross-cutting global issues.