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Science, Engineering and Maths

Volume 600: debated on Thursday 15 October 2015

11. What steps she is taking to increase the number of girls studying science, engineering and maths at school and university.


In the week in which we celebrate Ada Lovelace day, let us be clear that we cannot allow any girl to grow up thinking that some careers are off limits because of their gender or background. It is almost exactly one year since we launched the fantastic Your Life campaign, which is encouraging more and more girls to consider careers in STEM—science, technology, engineering and maths—related fields. As I have said previously in this House, the UK needs 83,000 engineers a year over the next 10 years, and, to be frank, they cannot all be men.

I am pleased that record numbers of girls are studying STEM subjects at school and university. I recently crossed the border into my neighbouring constituency of Gosport—that of the Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities and Family Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Caroline Dinenage)—to visit the defence technology company QinetiQ, of which she is an enthusiastic supporter, to support its powerboat challenge, in which it engaged directly with local schools to encourage their pupils to study STEM subjects. What more can local businesses like QinetiQ do to engage directly with business so that young people, particularly girls, take up these subjects?

The excellent work that QinetiQ is doing demonstrates how girls’ aspirations can be broadened by engaging with local businesses. Its managing director and its apprentice of the year are both female, which is a good start. We are working with British Chambers of Commerce to explore different approaches to school and business partnerships. Last year I announced that we would fund a careers and enterprise company to strengthen links between employers and young people so that they can act in a broad range of careers and so that, at a young enough age, they are inspired by the careers opportunities that are open to them and nobody says that any doors are shut to them.