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Number Of STEM A-Levels Up 3.1 Percent

IT skills gap seems to be getting narrower

On by Max Smolaks 0

A-level results published this morning reveal a steady increase in the number of entries for science and maths-based subjects.

Statistics show that the number of teenagers opting to study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) are up 3.1 percent on last year and 29.2 percent on 2007.

Overall, fewer A-levels scored top grades this year in the first drop for more than two decades, amid continuing attempts by the exams regulator Ofqual to tackle “grade inflation”.

Mind the gap

This morning, around 335,000 students in England,Wales and Northern Ireland were waking up to their A-level results. The grades have revealed a rise in popularity of STEM subjects, with mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics all among the top 10 most fashionable subjects.

The growth in technology-related A-levels comes amid demands from business leaders for more well-qualified engineers and scientists.

The number of students taking maths soared by almost four percent to 85,714, while physics entries jumped by five percent to 34,509 and chemistry increased by 2.4 percent to 49,234. Biology A-levels rose by two percent and further mathematics saw the biggest popularity boost, with eight percent more applicants than in 2011.

The surprising growth follows the introduction of the English Baccalaureate, a new school leaving certificate introduced by the Coalition to reward pupils studying traditional disciplines at GCSE levels.

“As the UK becomes even more of a hub for innovation, with continued investment in projects like Tech City and major companies opening up technology offices in the capital, it’s encouraging to see this is having an impact on the next generation of workers,” commented Stuart Silberg, VP of technology at Hotels.com.

“It’s imperative that schools educate their pupils on how to apply their talents to practical setting and promote the great career opportunities a good science and technology grounding can bring. A career in technology isn’t all about putting binary numbers into programming software – it requires creativity, team work and communication.

“It’s crucial that schools, the government and the wider technology industry continue to nurture the next generation of workers and highlight the benefits that a career in technology can bring, so that promising young talent doesn’t get lost.”

“This should create a great basis for a future workforce able to work in high-tech and scientific industries, as well as bringing good mathematical and reasoning skills to other sectors and to daily life,” added Dr Hilary Leevers, head of education and learning at the Wellcome Trust.

“We must not be complacent, though. The recent resurgence in the popularity of STEM subjects in the UK is needed to keep up with the levels of growth in similar high-income countries. We still have an unusually low level of students studying mathematics post-16, and efforts to increase this through a broader range of mathematics options should be supported.”

Earlier this year, the EU digital champion Neelie Kroes warned of a future shortage of IT talent, saying that the lack of human resources is the greatest challenge for the IT industry.

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Max Smolaks
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