Science and technology undergraduates should be given an annual bursary of £1,000 to increase the numbers taking these subjects, according to the Confederation of British Industry.
The confederation released a list of five points in a plan to double the number of students taking science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects.
The group has warned that urgent action is needed to reverse a decades-long decline in the numbers taking 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 says action is needed by schools and universities to get more young people interested in IT, and help deliver the 2.4m Stem qualified staff needed by 2014.
The group wants to see:
- 40% of 14-year-olds taking separate physics, biology and chemistry GCSEs, instead of the current 8%.
- £120m funding to pay for one-to-one careers advice at 14, 16 and 18 to help challenge misconceptions about science, engineering and technology degrees.
- Better equipped school science labs, with much of the £200m allocated by government for this remaining unspent.
- More specialist teachers to inspire youngsters
- £1,000 bursaries towards tuition fees per year, costing £200m a year, to reflect the importance of these skills to the economy.
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 of recruiter and 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."