Science and technology undergraduates should be given an annual bursary of £1,000 to increase the number of students taking these subjects, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
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The confederation has released a five-point plan to double the number of students taking science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects.
The group warned that action is needed to reverse a decades-long decline in IT and other Stem subjects. Concerns over a crisis in IT skills have seen many organisations and businesses bemoaning the lack of candidates with the right skills.
The five-point plan recommends the following to deliver the 2.4 million staff needed by 2014:
● The number of 14-year-olds taking separate physics, biology and chemistry GCSEs needs to rise from the current 8% to 40%.
● An extra £120m of funding to pay for one-on-one careers advice at 14, 16 and 18 to help challenge misconceptions about science, engineering and technology degrees.
● Better-equipped school science labs. Much of the £200m annual allocation currently goes unspent.
● More specialist teachers.
● Annual tuition-fee bursaries of £1,000, costing £200m a year.
The confederation said many young people are unaware of the higher earning potential Stem skills can unlock, with salaries starting at £23,000 a year.
Richard Lambert, CBI director general, said, "Some employers are already finding it difficult to get the right talent, and the problem is set to get worse."
Graham Love, CEO at defence technology firm QinetiQ, said, "We have seen the number of applications per graduate vacancy halve in the last five years and concerns about future skills levels resonate across the sector."