A-level results prove positive for manufacturing

Posted on 16 Aug 2012

A-level results have shown an increased uptake in important subjects for manufacturing and engineering. Today's results will shape the industry, but how?

There will be tears of joy and sadness up and down the country today as teenagers receive their A-level results. For many, today will mean the difference of going to university or not.

For the manufacturing industry, today’s results indicate a return to more strategically important subjects such as maths and science.

These STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and maths) have become an increasing focus for the government, as they debate how to attract more young people into manufacturing in an attempt to boost the UK’s flagging economy.

STEM subjects are attractive to employers and vital for students looking to study engineering at a higher level. They are often subjects which are overlooked by students in favour of the more creative and exciting subjects like media and fashion.

Cyan & Louise displaying their A-level results in Lincoln, image by Brett Jordan
Cyan & Louise displaying their A-level results in Lincoln, image by Brett Jordan

Terry Scuoler chief executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation said: “It is widely acknowledged that students qualifying in these topics at whatever level are in short supply. This is leaving key sectors of our economy such as manufacturing which we are relying on for growth and, which rely on high skills, struggling to meet their needs.”

STEM subjects are also important building blocks to students who are not going down the degree path and are planning on taking up apprenticeship places instead. Mr Scuoler encouraged students to consider apprenticeships if they do not get the grades needed for a university place.

Neil Bentley Confederation of British Industry deputy director general, said: “It is particularly pleasing that the growth in numbers studying science and maths is continuing, as these subjects are critical to the future success of our economy.”

He also warned: “Given our need to expand exports to boost growth, the further drop in language entries is a concern.”

Over the past five years there has been a 40% increase in students studying maths at A-level and nearly 20% uplift in physics and chemistry.

Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) director Imran Khan was pleased at this uptake but warned against becoming ‘complacent’.

He said: “Despite physics breaking into the top 10 A-levels subjects this year, we’ve only just got back to 2002 levels in terms of entries. An international comparison of 24 countries showed that England, Wales, and Northern Ireland were the only ones in which fewer than 20% of students study maths post-16. We desperately need to keep up the momentum.”

With the minimum school leaving age increasing to 18 in 2013, CaSE is calling for maths to be made a post-16 compulsory subject in an attempt to compete with other countries. CaSE started a campaign in 2008 to raise the UCAS points associated to maths and science as it believes this would make the subjects more attractive to potential students.

A recent study found that engineers were most in demand in today’s tough jobs market. Studying to fulfill this demand seems to be the most logical step to ensure work. As focus shifts on to manufacturing on UK shores and as more companies return their production to the UK, this demand for skilled engineers will only increase.