UK must double science graduates or face losing jobs

The UK must double the number of new science graduates by 2014 or skilled jobs will disappear overseas, warned the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) at the start of National Science and Engineering Week.

If the UK is to match growth in the engineering and technology sectors, the number of graduates leaving university with related degrees will need to jump from the current 12 per cent of total graduates to 25 per cent, the CBI warned. Currently, some 45,000 students leave UK universities with degrees in engineering, science or technology, but the CBI believes that number must jump to 97,000 to fill new positions.

"If we don't step up to the plate then the companies which have helped build up the UK's science base will be faced with no alternative but to go overseas," said John Cridland, the deputy director-general of the CBI. "They are increasingly recruiting from abroad and the danger is they may relocate altogether."

The CBI said schools must improve the quality of laboratories, hire more teachers with specialist knowledge, devote more time to science in the curriculum and offer better careers advice to sell the sector to indecisive students.

"If we are to meet their challenge head-on, and take advantage of the opportunities their growing economies provide, we need to ensure our education system can give young people the skills they need," said Cridland. "This means modern laboratories where pupils can enjoy the fun, hands-on aspects of science under the tuition of teachers with the specialist knowledge to give them the depth of knowledge and inspiration they need."