A "golden carrot" bursary of £1,000 a year should be given to science and engineering undergraduates as part of a five point plan to double the proportion of students taking these subjects, the Confederation of British Industry has said.
Ahead of this summer’s exam results, the UK’s biggest business group warned that urgent action was needed to reverse a decline in the study of science, technology, engineering and maths ('STEM') subjects that has been happening over decades to meet the needs of a changing UK economy.
The CBI's five point plan proposes action across the schools and universities system to get more young people interested in science, and help deliver the 2.4 million STEM-qualified staff needed by 2014.
It wants to see a number of changes, including separation of the brightest students into higher classes, more funding for careers advice, better science labs at schools, more science teachers and bursaries for STEM students worth £1,000 per year at a total cost of around £200m a year.
The CBI said action in each of these areas could increase to 25% the proportion of A-Level students taking at least two sciences or a science with maths, and double the percentage of STEM students at university from the current 13%. Meeting these targets would help deliver the 2.4m newly-qualified staff with STEM skills that CBI analysis shows are needed by 2014.
Richard Lambert, the CBI's director-general, said: “Too many potential scientists and engineers are abandoning these subjects at an early stage in their lives and missing out on rewarding, varied and lucrative career options.
“Some employers are already finding it difficult to get the right talent, and the problem is set to get worse. The UK cannot compete with the developing world on low-skilled jobs, so to thrive in the global market we must excel in the higher-skilled roles that demand expertise and innovation.
“Bursaries towards the cost of degrees which are most useful to the economy could kick-start thousands of young people into reconsidering a future in science. A thousand pounds a year towards tuition fees, combined with a better-paying job at the end, could see STEM graduates clearing their student loans years earlier.
Find your next job with computerworld UK jobs