Cut tuition fees for STEM subjects, says CBI

The Northern Echo: There is a shameful gender gap in science and technology, says the CBI There is a shameful gender gap in science and technology, says the CBI

THE CBI wants the Government to make careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) more attractive, and to encourage more women into the sector.

The employers' organisation is urging the Chancellor to consider financing a cut in tuition fees for some STEM courses, developing new training routes for existing workers, and creating a one-year crossover qualification.

It also called for action to tackle a "shameful gender gap" in science and technology.    

In a new report, Engineering our Future, the CBI argues that front-running British sectors of the future, from the advanced manufacturing and creative industries to the green economy, are facing a skills crunch in key industrial strategy sectors – especially for skilled technicians.

Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director, said: “Growth and jobs in the future will depend on the UK having a workforce that can exploit new technologies and discoveries. The growing skills vacuum is threatening the recovery, as demand from firms is outstripping supply.

“Highly-skilled workers are essential for our growth sectors and it will be those young people with science and maths who will go on to become the engineers and new tech entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

"The Government must explore if it’s possible to reduce the costs of some of these courses and create a one-year crossover qualification at 18 for those who turned away from science and maths after GCSEs, but now want to take a related degree.

“But it is increasingly clear that the really problematic shortages are at skilled technician level. We do have to play a long game on skills, creating more apprenticeships, but we also need policies for the short-term, including retraining existing workers with in-demand skills in key sectors.”

Engineering our Future argues that unless the true value of STEM-related qualifications and jobs are better showcased and more routes to such careers are created, especially for women, businesses will continue to struggle in their recruitment, threatening the long-term health of the economy.

A CBI/Pearson survey shows that last year 42 per cent of firms faced difficulties recruiting individuals with STEM skills and knowledge.

The CBI is also calling for targets for the number of women participating in STEM courses from sixth form upwards. 

Ms Hall added: “The Davies Review has had an impact in the boardroom, now we need a similar focus on the classroom. There is a shameful gender gap in science and technology so we need to transform society’s ideas of the choices women have in their careers.

“Employees with the right skills to work in areas like medicine, engineering and computer science also tend to have higher earnings on average than those who don’t.”

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