Get more children studying science, says CBI
15th August 2011
The UK's leading employers' group has urged greater efforts to encourage more teenagers to study core science subjects.
The CBI has said that pupils who obtain good grades in science at the age of 14 should study separate GCSEs in physics, chemistry and biology - subjects that are key to rebalancing the economy.
According to the CBI, four out of ten firms that rely on scientifically skilled workers are struggling to recruit with the right level of qualification in technology, engineering and maths.
Not linking the way that science subjects are studied in schools to the needs of employers will only further hinder economic recovery, the CBI insisted.
Demand for science skills are increasing all the time in industry sectors such as low-carbon technology, pharmaceuticals and digital media.
The CBI pointed to recent figures showing that, despite the fact that 46 per cent of 14-year-olds received high marks in science in 2009, reaching level six, one above the standard expected of the age group, a mere 20 per cent actually went on to take GCSEs in all three major science subjects.
In the CBI's view, taking triple science at GCSE would instil both a proper
understanding of the subjects and a confidence needed to continue study at both A-level and university.
According to the Department for Education, three quarters of triple science pupils achieving the highest grades progress to A Level science subjects, while only 59 per cent of double science pupils achieving the highest grades progress to A Level science subjects.
The CBI also pointed out that employers are willing to pay a premium for staff with science, technology, engineering and maths skills. Some 40 per cent of companies in science and IT and 33 per cent in construction reported that STEM graduates earn more than other graduates.
Katja Hall, the CBI's chief policy director, commented: "The UK's economic recovery will rely on businesses being able to access the talent they need to deliver sustainable growth.
"As the economy rebalances, we will need more highly-skilled employees, particularly for young people with STEM degrees, but businesses are struggling to recruit good graduates from the UK.
"At the same time that the English Baccalaureate has effectively made GCSE history and geography compulsory, the Government has neglected the sciences. It must pay more attention to getting students to study physics, chemistry and biology as separate GCSEs.
"At the moment only 18 per cent of young people study physics and chemistry as separate GCSEs compared with 26 per cent who study religious studies and 19 per cent who study physical education."