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Science: Training

Volume 477: debated on Thursday 12 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what recent steps the Government has taken to increase skills levels in science and engineering industries. (208857)

[holding answer 5 June 2008]: The Government are committed both to increasing the number of people studying science, technology, engineering and maths at all levels, and to working with the science and engineering industries to improve skill levels in those industries. My Department works closely with the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), and funds STEMNET—the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network—to raise awareness of these subjects and engagement among young people. This includes support for the science and engineering ambassadors scheme which has already enabled over 18,000 specialists to work directly with schools and colleges, offering mentoring, career guidance and positive role models. We recently announced that STEMNET would work towards having 27,000 ambassadors in place by 2011.

On 28 May the Secretary of State announced the first Train to Gain sector compact. This is a partnership between Semta (the Sector Skills Council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies), the Learning and Skills Council and my Department to drive up employer demand for skills in the science and engineering industries over the next three years. £65 million has been earmarked from the Train to Gain budget for this compact.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is providing £75 million additional funding from 2007/08 over three years for high cost strategic science subjects at undergraduate level, including chemistry, physics and chemical engineering.

HEFCE are also funding the National Engineering Programme (NEP), of which the London Engineering project is the first phase. After creating a successful working model with the London pilot project, the programme will extend to six other cities in England. Managed by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the programme aims to change the face of UK higher education in engineering, by widening participation and strengthening engineering as a strategic subject.

Together with DCSF we have put in place a structure—a High Level STEM strategy group—reporting both to DCSF and DIUS Ministers. This will ensure, across all phases of education, a joined-up approach to initiatives designed to support improvements in the teaching of science as well as those aimed at encouraging young people to take science subjects.