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Students continue to shun STEM subjects

Not enough students are taking science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects at either GCSE or A-Level to plug the growing skills gap, the Institution of Engineering Technology (IET) warned this week.

Despite small increases in the number of STEM students over recent years, it is not enough to fill the widening skills gap experienced by the industry today, the IET warned.

The situation is repeated at university level, with a shortage of undergraduates with STEM degrees.

Head of Policy at the IET, Paul Davies, said: “Unless we see a dramatic change in the number of young people progressing into STEM courses and then careers, the UK will struggle to deliver the new technology and infrastructure needed for a green economy.

“The new 14-19 diploma in engineering is a big step in the right direction, and we are very pleased to have been involved in the development. However we still believe more can be done,” he said.

This year’s A Level exam results did show an increase at 6th form level. While Biology, Chemistry and Physics entries have risen, more needs to be done to meet demand.

Engineering firms have expressed concern, with more than one-third reporting a lack of confidence in recruiting enough suitably qualified professionals to meet the needs of their businesses. While the number of STEM graduates increased in both 2008 and 2009, this rise is not fast enough to plug the widening gap, which is likely to increase in the coming years.

20% of science related professional jobs in the UK are already filled by migrants, and the IET says companies engaged in large-scale projects and green initiatives will struggle to find enough skilled workers.

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