The government has launched a campaign to accelerate participation in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects at school and beyond.
The Your Life campaign, launched by chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne on 7 May, will see 170 businesses and institutions offer more than 2,000 jobs and apprenticeships.
Organisations such as Google, Arup, L’Oreal, Microsoft, Ford, BP, BSkyB, Airbus, Balfour Beatty, Laing O’Rourke, IBM, Nestle, Samsung, the Science Museum and the Royal Academy of Engineering have pledged their support so far.
The launch took place at the Science Museum in London, where the chancellor was joined by education minister Elizabeth Truss, minister for skills and enterprise Matthew Hancock, and financial secretary to the treasury and minister for women Nicky Morgan.
"Backing growth in sectors such as science, tech and engineering is part of our long-term plan to deliver economic security and sustainable growth for a more resilient economy," said Osborne.
"This campaign, which brings together some of Britain’s best businesses, institutions and government, will help inspire young people into jobs in these exciting sectors that are essential to our economic prosperity."
More on IT skills
Truss said although an increasing number of students were choosing maths and physics at A-Level, uptake was still very low.
"Too many teenagers, especially girls, don’t realise that maths and physics get you everywhere. They have the highest earnings and can open doors to careers in business, journalism, technology, engineering – in fact, probably anything you can think of," she said.
"That’s why I am so delighted that entrepreneurs like Sarah Wood [chief operating officer of Unruly Media] and Edwina Dunn [a founder of dunnhumby] have agreed to lead this drive to show young people, especially girls, how science and maths have helped them to make it big.”
Hancock said there had never been a greater focus from government on inspiring people, especially women and girls, to take up science, technology, engineering and maths.
"STEM disciplines are the heartbeat of the modern world. From agriculture to aviation, the analytical and problem-solving skills they develop are more valuable than ever in a fast-changing, global economy,” he said.
Backing growth in sectors such as science, tech and engineering is part of our long-term plan to deliver economic security and sustainable growth
George Osborne MP
Monique Morrow, chief technology officer at Cisco Services, said the government-backed Your Life campaign, of which Cisco is a supporter, is a great start.
"The more closely individuals and organisations from the technology industry work with young people at an early stage, the more likely we are to find and inspire tomorrow’s IT professionals. It is our duty to educate them, not only about the current jobs available, but also the exciting future possibilities of IT," she said.
“As well as dominating our personal and consumer lives (through smartphones, tablets, internet shopping, for example) virtually every business now relies on technology of some form to operate. Consequently, a career in IT extends far beyond the dingy computer room, offering the potential to work in practically any industry and be part of shaping its future. It’s time we help get this message out there.”
Sharon Clews, director of people and talent management at techUK, said a gender-balanced workforce would strengthen the tech sector's ability to innovate and retain its market position as the cornerstone of industry across global markets.
“By widening the talent pool and encouraging female talent to thrive, the UK information economy will continue to grow in both size and stature,” she said.