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Knight Optical Helps to Bridge the STEM Skills Gap

19th May 2021

Knight Optical Helps to Bridge the STEM Skills Gap 


It’s no secret that there’s a current skills shortage within Britain and beyond. No industry has witnessed such a deficit of a next-generation workforce than the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sector. Luckily, there are companies within these fields that are helping to plug the gap – and Knight Optical is one business that’s leading the way. 

The skills shortage has been well-publicised, and STEM skills are certainly in demand. STEM falls under some of the world’s most important operations – from life-saving healthcare-related services to autonomous self-driving vehicles and artificial intelligence technology. Put simply, with such a broad spectrum of sub-industries; STEM covers everything from treating critical illnesses and minor ailments to keeping us entertained and pushing the boundaries of everyday conveniences. Therefore, we must keep these sectors alive and educate new generations to enable the future of STEM to thrive. 


Before the outbreak of COVID-19, a third of vacancies were considered difficult to fill1. Flash forward to today, and not much has changed. The Open University has reported that 91% of organisations in the UK have struggled to find workers with the correct skillset over the past 12 months2. What’s more, it’s been announced that this shortage is “costing an extra £6.33bn a year in recruitment fees, inflated salaries, temporary staff and training for workers hired at a lower level than intended2“. Faced with both a skills shortage and economic reconstruction following COVID-associated redundancies, furlough and business hiatuses, recruitment recovery in the STEM sector has a long road ahead. 


Of course, the first stage of tackling the skills shortage is education – primary and secondary schools, colleges, universities etc. In fact, in recent months, there has been an increase in educational institutes setting the scene to plug this STEM gap. For example, the University of Edinburgh has recently announced an updated range of short courses to entice younger people to data-based STEM-related courses3

Whilst early years and further education are vital in encouraging students to consider a career in STEM industries; it’s equally important that, as an industry, those who operate in the field retain their team with continued education. 


Educational Opportunities for Knight Optical Staff

Here at Knight Optical, we hire first-class employees with enthusiasm, a love for science and technology and educational bachelor’s and masters’ degrees. This, coupled with regular in-house training sessions and collaborative brainstorming, equips us with the finest team that each have a passion for what they do. In fact, feedback from our staff has always noted an appreciation for the educational opportunities offered at Knight Optical.  

Elaborating further, Colin Overton, CEO at Knight Optical, commented: 


“Education is indispensable when working in sectors such as ours. Here at Knight Optical, we understand that learning doesn’t stop as soon as you finish university – or further education. That’s why it’s crucial that we educate every single member of staff that walks through Knight Optical’s doors – and continue to do so throughout their time with us. 


“The optics and photonics sectors are ever-evolving and keeping abreast of new technologies and processes is our commitment to our customers. Collaborative learning is the most effective way to ensure we’re all up to date with the optics industry, and this is highly valued amongst Knight Optical staff.”

Women in STEM

Another documented deficiency within the STEM sector has been the imbalance of women versus men in STEM-related roles. According to ‘Women in STEM’ – an organisation that promotes and supports females working in the industry – the number of men in the field has been much higher than the quantity of females. The association reported that 35% of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women4. It also stated that in 2017 and ’18, the percentage of female students studying engineering and technology degrees made up 19% of students4. As ‘Women in STEM’ explains, there does appear to be an increase in recent years of women taking STEM-related subjects. However, when this is measured against the number of men graduating in these subjects, the percentage of women “has fluctuated from 25%, down to 24%, and up to 26% where it has stalled in 20194“.

Knight Optical Supporting Women Working in STEM

We’ve always had a balanced, diverse team at Knight Optical, and we’ve been a proud supporter of promoting women working in STEM since the inception of the business. Past and present feedback from Knight Optical staff has celebrated the women we have working at our company. Last year, we spoke to Alice Wells, our UK Account Manager, about her role at Knight Optical. When asked what initially drew her to work for us, she responded: 


“When I had my interview, I was questioned by Knight Optical’s UK Sales Manager, Rachel Smyth. I was really impressed that I had this interview with such a powerful woman in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). It definitely struck a note in me.”


Commenting on Knight Optical’s role in encouraging women to work in STEM, Colin Overton, added: 


“The shortfall of women working in STEM is an issue that we have to approach holistically. At Knight Optical, we’ve always had a diverse group of men and women working on our team. It’s inspiring to have a significant number of women working in our UK and USA teams – including within our Metrology Laboratory and QA department, through to our Technical Sales Department. 


“Attracting and retaining the next generation of an aspiring STEM workforce partly rests with the industry, and we’ve played our part at Knight Optical in spreading optics awareness. In fact, prior to COVID-19 and its consequential restrictions, Martin Bailitis BSc, our fully qualified Metrology Technician, presented a talk on optics and photonics at a Kent-based primary school – where the students were highly engaged with the science behind everything we do. Sharing information and uncovering the fun behind STEM subjects with younger generations in this manner is key in preparing the workforce of the future, and we’re proud to be playing our part.”

Knight Optical Helps to Bridge the STEM Skills Gap

About Knight Optical

Here at Knight Optical, we supply a range of both stock and custom-made optical components. Discerning customers rely Knight Optical not only for the premium quality of our output and Metrology Laboratory and QA department.’s capabilities but because – as well as a range of Stock Optics (available for next-day dispatch) – we also offer a range of sought-after Custom-Made Optical Components.


This year, we’re celebrating 30 years in business. With three decades’ experience under our belt and a whole host of long-standing world-renowned customers on our books, we are proud to have worked on some of the most ground-breaking innovations.


If you are looking for premium-quality, bespoke optical components, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of the Technical Sales Team today.