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Slash tuition fees for STEM students, biz boss body begs UK.gov

Fresh meat needed stat to fill 'skilled technician' shortage

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The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is demanding that the government take action on the skills shortage in tech and engineering, proposing lower tuition fees for courses and new training for existing workers.

The CBI said that a survey it conducted with survey haus Pearson last year showed that 42 per cent of companies were facing difficulties recruiting people with STEM skills and knowledge and wants the government to do more to encourage people into the sector.

The organisation is proposing that the government come up with a way to reduce tuition fees on STEM university courses, as well as developing a catch-up course for 18-year-olds who'd left STEM subjects at GCSE level but wanted to do a related degree.

It also wants to see further apprenticeships to develop in-demand skills as well as retraining opportunities for older employees and gender diversity targets at sixth-form colleges and universities to get more women in the field.

"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," said Katja Hall, chief policy director at the CBI.

“The government must explore if it’s possible to reduce the costs of some of these courses and create a one-year crossover qualification at 18 for those who turned away from science and maths after GCSEs, but now want to take a related degree.

“But it is increasingly clear that the really problematic shortages are at skilled technician level. We do have to play a long game on skills, creating more apprenticeships, but we also need policies for the short-term, including retraining existing workers with in-demand skills in key sectors.”

In a new report, "Engineering our Future", the CBI argues that key economic areas are facing a "skills crunch" and encouraging people, particularly women, into STEM qualifications is vital to the economy.

"As the economy rebalances towards manufacturing, investments and exports, major growth sectors require these skills and they must be confident that the UK's supply can grow with their businesses in the years ahead," the report said.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills said it was committed to supporting the science and engineering workforce.

"That is why we recently announced a £200m investment in teaching facilities at universities science, technology and engineering and an additional £185m over four years to support teaching," a BIS spokesperson said.

"The government is also funding a range of programmes including STEMNET, the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering diversity programme which are aimed at encouraging at range of people to study science and engineering." ®

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