IET issues Faraday Challenge to businesses

A new campaign aimed at closing the UK’s skills gap is calling for businesses to sponsor events encouraging young people into science and technology careers.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) launched the initiative today as new data showed that the UK is producing its lowest proportion of graduates in nearly 10 years.

The trade body is inviting firms to sponsor schools in their region to hold Faraday Challenge Days, designed to promote the study of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and related careers.

The IET’s head of education, Gareth James, said: ‘We are already running the scheme in hundreds of UK schools with brilliant results. But this is the first time we’ve invited every UK science business to get behind it so we can reach even more young people.

‘Prior to a Faraday Challenge, only 27 per cent of teenagers taking part say they are interested in pursuing a STEM career, but afterwards 56 per cent express an interest. If every school in the UK took part, the skills shortage could be reversed in under nine years.’

New figures released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that the proportion of young people in the UK with a degree fell to 35 per cent in 2008, compared with 39 per cent in 2007 and 37 per cent in 2000.

The OECD average graduate rate for 2008 was 38 per cent and the UK came 15th in the ranking of industrialised countries, down from third place in 2000. Countries that have overtaken the UK include Iceland and the Czech and Slovak republics.

The IET pointed out that 20 per cent of professional science jobs in the UK are now filled by migrant workers, while one in five employers from engineering businesses are not confident about finding new staff with the right level of skills.

Faraday Challenge Days cost an average of £37 per child and businesses can sponsor a school from £3,000.

‘We are making a call to action,’ said James. ‘Together we can contribute to turning the tide and keep the UK at the leading edge of engineering and technology.’