IET: Student numbers in STEM a grave threat to UK economy

Student numbers in science, technology, engineering and maths a grave threat to UK economy

The UK economy will shrink unless more young people study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). The engineering sector in the UK accounts for 20% of GDP, three times that of the financial sector. Despite some improvement, there is still a black hole when it comes to the numbers of people studying STEM subjects.

Gareth James, Head of Education at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) said: “From across industry we hear repeated time and again that there are not enough young people with the right qualifications available to take the rewarding and challenging engineering careers that are available now and anticipated over the next couple of decades.

“Good quality qualifications in Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Computer Science will open many doors to young people but if they want to stand out as potential employees they also need to demonstrate their ability to apply their learning and to have good employability skills such as team working. It is vital that if young people want to have the best chance in the jobs market that they need to research what employers are looking for, to choose their subjects accordingly and gain the sort of experience and skills that will make them appealing.”

The Lords Science and Technology Committee is right to call for urgent action by the government to boost student numbers in these subjects. Experts from the IET submitted evidence to the committee and the IET continues to help government and academia tackle this massive challenge.

A priority is to educate and inspire young school children on the exciting and important contribution that scientists, engineers, mathematicians and others make to society. The IET, with its partners, is working in hundreds of schools to do just that. The IET is also working to improve the national curriculum with the Department for Education, accrediting university courses, creating role models via awards, supporting individuals with scholarships and much more.

The IET conducts independent research on the skills gaps and shortages within industry and the findings support the fact that the pipeline of talent into the sector is too thin. At present, only 14% of boys and 9% of girls know what engineers do, let alone feel inspired to become one. If more young people do not pursue STEM this will be a massive handicap to UK plc.


Notes to Editors
§ All statistics from EngineeringUK Annual Survey 2009/10.

§ IET expert, independent spokespeople are available for comment via the contact details below.

§ The Institution of Engineering and Technology is a source of engineering intelligence.

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