Business, Innovation and Skills
Jim Shannon (Strangford, DUP)
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what steps he has taken to ensure that the higher education system provides a workforce capable of supporting manufacturing industry.
David Willetts (Minister of State (Universities and Science), Business, Innovation and Skills; Havant, Conservative)
Central planning of how higher education meets industry needs is impossible.
Under the new university funding regime, Government will continue to pay teaching grant to support the higher costs of the scientific, technical, and engineering disciplines. We are also keen to see apprenticeships linked with higher education. Higher apprenticeships have the potential to deliver high level skills tailored specifically to individual business requirements. £18.7 million from the Higher Apprenticeship Fund will support the development of 19,000 new higher apprenticeships in sectors including construction, advanced engineering, insurance and financial services.
As part of the autumn statement, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) announced two initiatives to improve the information that is available to young people considering careers in manufacturing and other scientific and engineering areas. The first is Government support for an employer-led scheme to facilitate the kite-marking of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (“STEM”) degree courses that will signal which ones best prepare students for employment in particular sectors or occupations, and the second is the extension of the STEM Ambassadors programme into higher education. This will offer undergraduates access to mentoring support drawn from the existing network of STEM Ambassadors and raise the profile of the STEM sector, thereby encouraging more young people to consider a variety of STEM careers including in engineering and manufacturing.
At undergraduate degree level, in 2010/11 the number of UK-domiciled STEM entrants were up by 1% compared to 2009/10, while non-STEM subjects saw a decrease of 1%. There have been large increases since 2009/10 for Chemistry (+9%) and Physics (+5%). In 2010/11 UK domiciled STEM PhD entrants were up 6% compared to 2009/10, and across all STEM subject PhD entrants rose by 7%. This included large increases in Computer Science (+16%), Medicine and Dentistry (+15%) and Physics (+9%).
Sir Tim Wilson's recent report to the Department on business-university collaboration presented numerous examples of effective co-operation. We are considering how this extensive good practice can be further extended and consolidated.