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STEM Careers

Volume 623: debated on Thursday 23 March 2017

We simply cannot afford to miss out on the talents of half the population. Increasing the number of women in STEM industries is vital for economic growth and to eliminate the gender pay gap. That is why we are improving the quality of STEM teaching, funding programmes such as the Stimulating Physics Network and the further maths support programme, and raising awareness of career opportunities through STEM ambassadors.

I recently met Katie Goodwill, an apprentice from Rolls-Royce in Barnoldswick, who in November won the gold medal in CNC turning at a 2016 world skills show. Will the Minister join me in congratulating Katie as a role model for other women and girls, inspiring them to take up STEM careers?

I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in congratulating his constituent, Katie Goodwill, on her fantastic achievement. Role models are so important—that is why more than 40% of our STEM ambassadors are women. They are helping to inspire the next generation, just as I am sure his constituent Katie will.

It is important to encourage women and girls into non-traditional careers, but will the hon. Lady ask the Ministers responsible for expanding apprenticeships why there are no targets for increasing the number of girls on apprenticeships in traditionally male areas? There has been a lost opportunity to challenge that.

I certainly will have conversations with my colleague in the Department for Education, but the right hon. Lady must remember that there are no such things as girls’ jobs and boys’ jobs, and we have to get that message across from the earliest stages of kids’ engagement with the education system. That is why we have chosen to focus on increasing the take-up of STEM subjects, which lead to the more technical apprenticeships and jobs.

The engineering education scheme is a brilliant scheme for encouraging primary schoolchildren of both sexes to get interested in engineering. What can the Government do to support that scheme and promote it in schools across the country, including in my constituency?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to that scheme and others that make such a difference up and down the country. She should also be aware that we are investing an additional half a billion pounds in developing technical skills for 16 to 19-year-olds via the new T-level certificate. We are encouraging girls to take advantage of that scheme to gain valuable industry skills and experience.

All the evidence suggests that one of the best ways of getting girls and young women to go into STEM careers is to change STEM to STEAM—that is to ensure that every young person in this country, and particularly girls, has a really strong arts education in their school. What will the Government do to ensure that schools do not cut music teaching and drama education, and ensure that every youngster gets a good arts education?

The Government have taken unprecedented steps to ensure that we continue to invest in those subjects, and that they continue to have massive focus in our schools. We are also publishing online guidance—“Your daughter’s future”—that helps parents to support their daughters in careers choices, so that they ensure that they include all those important subjects when making decisions about their future.