By Max Clarke

As the economy prepares for growth, businesses keen to expand are facing desperate shortages in core skills, particularly in Science, Technology Engineering and Maths- or STEM skills.

To combat this increasingly dire skills shortage, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is today urging schools to automatically enrol their more promising students into triple-science GCSE.

“The UK’s economic recovery will rely on businesses being able to access the talent they need to deliver sustainable growth,” said Katja Hall, CBI Chief Policy Director.

“At the moment only 18% of young people study physics and chemistry as separate GCSEs compared with 26% who study religious studies and 19% who study physical education.”

Employers are willing to pay a premium for staff with STEM skills, says the CBI whose research suggests 40% of companies in science and IT and 33% in construction reporting that STEM graduates earn more than other graduates.
A recent report by the Education Select Committee said that the English-Baccalaureate has not increased the take-up of triple science. The voluntary approach, argue the CBI, is not working. Despite the fact that 46% of young people achieved high marks at age 14 in 2009, only 20% of pupils actually took GCSEs in all three sciences in 2009-10.

“At the same time that the English Baccalaureate has effectively made GCSE history and geography compulsory, the Government has neglected the sciences. It must pay more attention to getting students to study physics, chemistry and biology as separate GCSEs,” concluded Hall.

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