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Volume 745: debated on Wednesday 7 February 2024

4. What steps she is taking to help support women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs. (901444)

We are helping to get young girls and women into STEM sectors in three key ways: first, by increasing the number of young girls taking up courses. We have seen a 50% increase in the number of undergraduate STEM courses taken up by young women. Secondly, this week is National Apprenticeship Week, and 70% of jobs are now accessed through an apprenticeship, which is helping young women get into STEM careers. Thirdly, we are helping women with experience of working in STEM who have left the profession to return to the workplace with our STEM returners project.

University technical colleges are a good place for young women to start in STEM. I welcome the new UTC in Southampton, which will provide the extra places that Portsmouth UTC is unable to offer. Some 6,000 girls attend UTCs around the country, of whom 82% go on to apprenticeships, university or straight into employment—mostly into STEM careers. Does my hon. Friend agree that UTCs provide a great start to a career in STEM, and that the proposal for UTC sleeves in secondary schools will help more girls into STEM careers?

I absolutely agree. University technical colleges provide an excellent experience for young people, not just academically but in providing technical skills. They have excellent links with industry, which provides great work experience for those pupils. I am pleased that the young people in my hon. Friend’s constituency have such great options for UTC provision.

I am always encouraged by the number of young ladies and girls who wish to be involved in science, technology and mathematics in Northern Ireland. They can do the job every bit as well men. Is it not important to ensure that companies that wish to employ people do more to encourage young ladies to take up jobs?

The hon. Member is absolutely right. The Government cannot do it all; we need industry, and there are some great examples. We have a £17 million scholarship programme for artificial intelligence and data science conversion courses. We also have the UK Space Agency investing £15 million into diverse workforce streams, particularly to help young women get into the sector. He is right that we need to work hand in glove with industry.