Industry-led campaign launched by the Chancellor to inspire more young people to study maths and physics

Posted on Wednesday 7th May 2014

At the launch of a new campaign to boost participation in science, technology, engineering and maths (the ‘STEM’ subjects) at school and beyond, the government today (7 May 2014) welcomed over 170 leading businesses and institutions offering over 2,000 jobs and apprenticeships.

The campaign – called ‘Your Life’ – was launched by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt. Hon. George Osborne MP, and leading entrepreneurs and organisations, including the University of Birmingham.

The Chancellor was joined by Education Minister Liz Truss MP, Minister for Skills and Enterprise Matthew Hancock MP and Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Minister for Women, Nicky Morgan MP.

Organisations such as Google, Arup, L’Oreal, Microsoft, Ford, BP, BSkyB, Airbus, Balfour Beatty, Laing O’Rourke, IBM, Nestle, Samsung, the Science Museum and the Royal Academy of Engineering have pledged to do more to highlight the career opportunities open to those studying STEM subjects, committing to create over 2,000 new entry level positions including apprenticeships, graduate jobs or paid work experience posts.

The campaign will also have targeted advertising and a new scheme to boost the number of high-skilled science teachers alongside the pledges from businesses.

The advertising campaign will be spearheaded by Edwina Dunn, who co-created the Tesco Clubcard, and an independent board of eight entrepreneurs and advocates. They will transform the way young people think about maths and physics and the careers to which they lead.

In addition, top firms including Barclays, Tata Consulting, National Grid and GlaxoSmithKline are also sponsoring a new scheme called ‘Maths and Physics Chairs’, to recruit post-doctoral graduates to become science and maths teachers injecting top-level expertise into schools with poor progression in these topics.

Last year the Chief Scientific Advisor at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills published a report calling on government to inspire more young people to take up engineering. The Perkins report identified the industry suffered misconceptions which deterred young people from pursuing careers in this field.

Subjects like maths and physics are also becoming more important, not just in science and engineering, for an increasing range of high paid careers in fields such as marketing, technology and design.

However, despite recent progress and growing numbers of young people taking GCSE physics and A-level maths, at age 16 there is a steep drop off; in physics the number falls from around 150,000 to 32,000 including just 7,000 girls choosing to study the subject.
George Osborne said: ‘Backing growth in sectors such as science, tech and engineering are part of our long term plan to deliver economic security and sustainable growth for a more resilient economy. This campaign, which brings together some of Britain’s best businesses, institutions and government, will help inspire young people into jobs in these exciting sectors that are essential to our economic prosperity.’

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss added: ‘Rising numbers of people are taking maths and physics A-levels – but it is still very low. Too many teenagers, especially girls, don’t realise that maths and physics get you everywhere. They have the highest earnings and can open doors to careers in business, journalism, technology, engineering - in fact anything you can probably think of.

‘That’s why I am so delighted that entrepreneurs like Sarah Wood and Edwina Dunn have agreed to lead this drive to show young people, especially girls, how science and maths have helped them to make it big.

‘I’m also very pleased to see some of the UK’s top businesses showing their commitment by signing the ‘Your Life’ call to action and committing to recruit more science and maths students. Together we can ensure young people have the skills they need to succeed in life and help the UK compete on a global scale.’

Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock said: ‘There has never been a greater focus from government on inspiring people, especially women and girls, to take up science, technology, engineering and maths. STEM disciplines are the heartbeat of the modern world. From agriculture to aviation, the analytical and problem-solving skills they develop are more valuable than ever in a fast-changing, global economy.

‘I’m delighted that 170 leading organisations are joining us in our commitment to inspiring more women and girls to take up study and training in these areas, particularly with their pledges for new apprenticeships. These kinds of high quality apprenticeship places will offer people the skills they need for an exciting and productive career and give businesses the workforce they need to grow.’

Ends

Notes to Editors

  • The call to action has been signed by over 170 businesses, universities, schools and professional organisations who have committed to a range of actions to increase participation.
  • The Science Museum will deliver a three-year exhibition that will inspire young people to think engineering could be for them.

For further information
Kate Chapple, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel +44 (0)121 414 2772 or +44 (0)7789 921164