Cut tuition fees for STEM subjects, urges CBI

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The CBI is urging government to cut tuition fees for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) courses and bring in targets so that more women study the subjects.

The business lobby group wants to make careers in engineering and technology more attractive to young people and easier to access. In a report, called Engineering our Future, it argues that key sectors of the UK economy, including engineering and advanced manufacturing, are facing a 'skills crunch'. The report warns that without help to boost STEM qualifications and more routes into careers based on them, especially for women, businesses will continue to struggle in their recruitment, threatening the long term health of the economy. Katja Hall, the CBI's chief policy director, said: "Growth and jobs in the future will depend on the UK having a workforce that can exploit new technologies and discoveries. The growing skills vacuum is threatening the recovery, as demand from firms is outstripping supply. "Highly skilled workers are essential for our growth sectors and it will be those young people with science and maths who will go on to become the engineers and new tech entrepreneurs of tomorrow." As well as reducing tuition fees on some STEM courses, the CBI wants to see one year cross-over courses developed for 18 year olds, so that they can switch back to STEM subjects in preparation for a related degree. It also called for sixth forms, colleges and universities to set and report on 'Davies-style' gender diversity targets to boost women's participation in key subjects like physics and maths. Hall described the gender gap in science and technology as 'shameful'. "We need to transform society's ideas of the choices women have in their careers," she concluded.