Industry figures warn of skills shortages

Warnings are emerging from industry that too few young people are taking an interest in STEM subjects to meet the country's urgent need for engineers.

A survey of 2,000 A level and university students by Centrica revealed that 55% would not consider a career in science, technology or energy. Media and entertainment jobs were more desirable, the study showed. Centrica said the results were a huge concern because an estimated 70% of the UK's current nuclear workforce could be retired by 2025.

Similarly, a total of 17,442 A-level students sat technology exams in 2009-10, compared to 33,822 people taking media, film or TV studies, figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications today showed. There was an increase in the number of pupils taking technology, economics, maths and the three sciences compared to last year, but Sir James Dyson warned there was still a long way to go to satisfy business demand.

Sir James said: "I'm encouraged to see an increase in the number of students with strong science, engineering, technology and mathematics A-levels. But we need to boost these numbers – there are still twice as many people choosing media studies over technology." He added: "For the UK to stay competitive, we require having the right people with the right training."

The shortage of skills has been brought into sharp focus by Dyson's drive to recruit 350 engineers. Despite more than 4,000 applications having been received, only 100 of the places have so far been filled.

The warning comes as a third of engineering companies said they doubted they would be able to recruit enough suitably qualified professionals to meet their business needs, according to the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

Approximately 20% of science-related professional jobs in the UK were filled by migrant workers, the IET said, in a sign that the skills gap could become "unmanageable" with large scale projects such as new nuclear power stations.

Author
Paul Fanning

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