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BSRIA concerned with science A-level cash squeeze announcementAugust 2015

Following Tuesday’s announcement regarding sixth form colleges, BSRIA is concerned that science A-levels will be cut due to a ‘cash squeeze’ – as a result of financial pressures. This will hinder the search for suitable, skilled engineering graduates, which is of great concern to BSRIA as it is now unclear where and how such key education will take place.

This news is especially bizarre as the construction sector’s demand for workers is outpacing all other sectors of the economy, according to a report published on Monday by consultants KPMG and REC. The report puts construction in joint-first place out of nine industries in the table of demand for permanent staff – and top in the rankings for temp staff.

The construction industry in particular is struggling to keep pace with demand and there is a risk that a shortage of skilled labour in this sector could impede Britain’s major building projects and put the brakes on the country’s booming real estate market.

Sixth form colleges have faced deeper cuts to their budgets than any other group of institutions, with some losing a third of their funding between 2011 and 2016. The future is ‘equally bleak’, as the government has decided not to protect the 16-19 education budget from spending cuts. Results from this week’s Sixth Form Colleges Association questionnaire found that just under a quarter of those responding reported cuts in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.

Julia Evans, Chief Executive, BSRIA, said: “This is a shambles and a worry for the future of science, engineering, the construction industry and the economy at large. Funding for the sciences is crucial for the qualifications and skills required for our future engineers. Government needs to think proactively and long-term about this – which doesn’t appear to be the case right now. A reduction in such funding is certainly a false economy when businesses are struggling to find the talent they need.

It’s a competitive market with both sixth form colleges, schools with sixth forms and the further education sector vying for students. Wherever students choose to study what really matters is the outcome. Likewise BSRIA acknowledges that A-levels, TechBacc programmes and apprenticeships are all vital. This announcement is a huge disappointment.

Traditional A-level subjects are actually seeing an increase in the number of students registering and this includes the sciences and maths, in essence more students are turning to the STEM subjects. We appreciate that it costs more to run STEM courses due to the laboratory and experimental work involved – and there clearly is a pressure to reduce this – but such learning forms the building blocks of a career in engineering and construction. Lose this and you lose the very foundation of the discipline.

It’s simply short-sightedness not to invest in science, outlook for our economy relies on students progressing to engineering, and its unwise to reduce such funding – for an industry that demands investment. There is a social responsibility to invest in young people – they are tomorrow’s workforce.

BSRIA acknowledges the hard work and achievement of those receiving today’s A-level and AS-level results and congratulates all students for their grades – which will hopefully be good news for the science subjects and the future of engineering.”

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