The UK government has been implored to harness the talents of people with skills relevant to the science, engineering and technology industries, which are critical to the long-term future of the economy. The call has come from Education for Engineering (E4E), an industry body, which has argued that more students should be encouraged to study these subjects in higher education.
As things stand, E4E said, the British economy risks failing behind its rivals on the Continent and elsewhere due to the lack of people capable of filling engineering jobs. Furthermore, the trade body said that a significant proportion of young people are not being afforded the opportunity to fulfill their potential in science subjects.
"The issue of attainment in science and mathematics in our schools is one which is both national and local," E4E said. "The levels of attainment presented here are not good enough if we are to rebalance the economy in favour of productive and manufacturing industries and compete in a knowledge-led, global marketplace in science, engineering and technology.
"This issue should be of particular concern for those regions where there is low entry and attainment of pupils in science and mathematics and yet want to attract inward investment from international science and engineering businesses."
A report by the Confederation of British Industry has claimed that as many as 42 percent of its member firms are having trouble finding candidates with STEM knowledge and skills. But in a bid to resolve this issue, the government has recently announced reforms to the education system that are designed to ensure young people develop basic skills.
Similarly, Education Secretary Michael Gove has conceded that the national curriculum fails to recognise the increasing importance of the technology industry. Given that ICT is critical to business performance and societal development, Mr Gove confirmed that young children are to be given the opportunity to develop basic computer programming skills. This, the Conservative Party minister hopes, will encourage more people to consider a career in the industry.
As if to underline the government's commitment to the technology industry, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that he expects Britain to have the best broadband network in Europe by 2015.
Why is it that the engineering industry is struggling to attract young people? And what more can the government do to resolve the problem?