Employers have called on the government to knock £1,000 a year off tuition fees for science and engineering students to head off a massive skills shortage.
The CBI insists the money must be found in the forthcoming comprehensive spending review to ensure millions of new jobs in technology sectors don’t go to foreign workers.
With A-Level results out later this week, the employers’ group warned that the number of undergraduates taking science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM subjects) at university needed to double.
It calculates that the UK will need 2.4 million workers with these skills over the next seven years – and says that firms are already struggling to recruit qualified staff.
Graham Love, chief executive of defence technology company QinetiQ, said that if there were not enough UK graduates, firms would look abroad for staff.
CBI director-general Richard Lambert said: “Too many potential scientists and engineers are abandoning these subjects at an early stage of their lives.
“£1,000 a year towards tuition fees, combined with a better-paying job at the end, could see STEM graduates clearing their student loans years earlier.”
Lambert added that employers had a role to play in solving the recruitment crisis.
“We face a huge challenge, and business has to do more,” he said. “Businesses need to be out there in the secondary schools system challenging perceptions and making clear these aren’t fantasy jobs, but genuinely great opportunities.”