Top business leaders have called for science and engineering undergrads to be given an extra £1,000 per year to help reverse the decline in Britain's pool of technical talent. According to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the golden carrot would tempt the youth away from claptrap like David Beckham studies and …
A different idea
Here's an idea: Why not stop pretending that all A-Levels and Degrees are worth the same? Everyone in the real world knows that they aren't anyway, otherwise you would have very similar grade distributions. Some universities have lists of A-levels that you shouldn't do more than one of if you expect to get in...
Give them all a weighting or something.
Making engineering a more attractive field to work in once the students graduate - salaries are pitiful compared to other fields and I dont blame students for not choosing science or engineering...
So generous of them to hand £1K notes to undergraduates. Oh, er.. they want the nanny state to hand out £1K notes?
If they need engineers, they could try paying for them.
Here's another idea
Stop giving out degrees in Pornographic History and suchlike in the first place.
Science at School
Perhaps if they'd go back to proper science teaching at school instead of the dumbed-down stuff taught at present, it might inspire children to go for it a bit more. At the moment it seems that chemistry, physics and biology are all lumped together and there's too much wishy-washy crap involving essays in the curriculum. Physics and chemistry are all about hard facts and equations, at least at A-level standard, not global warming and other popular subjects of the day. You can't have a proper informed discussion on global warming without learning the hard science behind it.
The CBI members have the answer
I was brilliant at chemistry when I was at school. I was top for the 3 years leading up to O level. I did no revision, didn't have a notebook, always got 10/10 for homework, completed the O level exam in about 30 minutes and knew the entire syllabus.
My first job, laboratory assistant in an edible oil plant. My first salary £470/year.
A girl who was the same age is myself earned twice as much for assembling cardboard boxes.
Sort of shows the rewards given for qualified people. OK a few O levels may not be very much, but it was a lot more than the cardboard box assemblers.
I exited chemistry as there was no viable future in it and moved into electrical engineering, eventually ending up in programming.
The CBI are always bleating on about the education system. It is CBI members who have hired people with "useless" degrees, it is CBI members that do not wish to pay adequate salaries or reward efforts.
The CBI has little to complain about really, after all, it is they who offer careers, and if the career is not rewarded as well as those careers with a "useless" degree, they can hardly blame people for not wanting to pursue them.
So Mr CBI, pay people proper salaries and you will find they begin to get interested in what your members may have to offer. Continue with your stinginess and they wont. Simple, cause and effect, most science people understand this principle.
Need more scientists
Why? There's no jobs out there when they're qualified.
And then when you are lucky enough to find a post, you find that you've joined a modern-day throwback to the "dark satanic mills" of yesteryear. Luckily I managed to escape from t'mills to the sunny uplands of IT, but I know a few folks that are still toiling away. And heaven help you if you're a lass (I'm not) the treatment's even worse!
Much better - as Mr Suntherland points out above - to spend some money trying to raise the profile of engineering/science in this country and remove the stigma that engineer/scientist = "geek/nerd".
Maybe they could get ex-scientists and engineers like Brian May and Carol Vordermann to front it? ;)
@Steve Browne: Why only O-levels?
Steve, maybe this was years back when industry had proper vocational training, but the question needs to be asked: why stop at O-levels and then expect a decent job? As it stands now (and as it was when I left school 15 years back), if you leave school at 16 and don't go on to further education, you're almost certainly going to be doing menial work for peanuts, because you won't have the skills to do anything else.
There are plenty of programmes aiming to raise the profile of science and engineering, particularly aimed at school kids, plenty of which are funded (indirectly) by the government (and thankfully none that involves Vorderman!). The kids I've seen on some of these courses/events are really enthusiastic about science but only because they get to do practical stuff (many schools don't even have laboratories any more) and these programmes give them that opportunity.
Trouble is that because you don't see any "tangible results" from the schemes after the first year or two (because it takes many more years before uni application rates or job numbers/pay increase), the research councils and universities are unwilling to continue the funding and the programme dies.
Remove the focus on immediate results and give these programmes time - a simple cash incentive might've worked for teaching, but it'll take a lot more effort and time for a similar effect to be seen in sci/eng.
Attracting top students to STUDY Science and Engineering is just the start.
I graduated from Imperial College in London last year in the top handful of students in my year, and I am the only student to go on to a technical role outside of the banking/management consultancy cabal. Even with a great engineering job, it goes without saying that my starting salary was about 70% that of my contemporaries in the city.
With the cream of science and engineering students skimmed off every year, pushing more mediocre talent through the university system seems like a very expensive and inefficient way for the CBI's members to improve their graduate intake (albeit, they did not obviously propose fund 1k stipends themselves). A far better strategy would be to pay above average starting salaries (>£30k for Imperial graduates) and make it clear how their company rewards (pay, bonus, respect) and nurtures (training, innovation time) talent.