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Increasing numbers of science students a cause for celebration  

18 Nov 2008

Developing STEM in the East Midlands – The Race to the TopFriday 28th November 2008, Rolls-Royce plc, Derby Rising enrolment numbers for maths and physics teacher training testify to the potential popularity science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) could enjoy in the future. As business, educationalists, and regional government representatives gather in Derby on 28th November for the third East Midlands STEM Partnership Forum, the debate will centre on how this training momentum can be maintained and how the emerging students can be supported in their desire to pursue STEM careers.

The audience of over 100 STEM partners will hear from Professor John Holman, National STEM Director and Director of National Science Learning Centre, Department for Children, School and Families (DCSF), about the Government’s plans for developing STEM skills. With £6 million invested over the next three years in a range of STEM projects, East Midlands Development Agency (emda) places great emphasis on STEM skills for its future regional prosperity.

Dr Bryan Jackson, emda’s Chairman and a keynote speaker at the event, is delighted the STEM Partnership is established, growing and influencing the provision of STEM learning and career opportunities.  He says: “The East Midlands STEM Partnership plays a crucial role in addressing the aspirations of the Government and this region for the future by acting as the voice of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education in the region. emda’s £6m investment in this sector is a huge boost and illustrates how important it is that all those involved in STEM - delivery organisations, businesses and educators at all levels - harness the potential of young people to develop highly skilled employees in innovative STEM-related industries. This will ensure future prosperity and global competitiveness of, not only the East Midlands, but the UK as a whole.”

In his address to the Forum, Professor Holman will encourage the East Midlands to adopt the national STEM priorities:  “In these turbulent financial times, it is more important than ever to invest in the fundamental infrastructure of the region and the country – and no part of that infrastructure is more important than the STEM skills of our future workforce.  That means investing in the professional development of STEM teachers, enriching the science and maths curricula and making pupils more aware of the many rewarding careers that STEM qualifications can bring them. We are already seeing encouraging results from the investments so far: for example in chemistry, A level entries are up 12% since 2002, and applications for university chemistry courses are up over 25% in the same period.  But there is still a great deal to do if we are to meet the Confederation of British Industry’s challenge of doubling the number of STEM graduates by 2014.”

The Forum takes place in one of the UK’s flagship technology companies, Rolls-Royce plc. From its earliest days, Rolls-Royce has championed technical and innovation skills training and welcomes the opportunity to be a leading player in the STEM Partnership. Ged Leahy, Director Workforce & Skills Planning, Rolls-Royce plc, says: "For high technology, globally competitive organisations like Rolls-Royce, STEM skills are our life blood. If we do not see a sustainable reversal of the recent trend for dwindling numbers of students studying STEM subjects, the UK's ability to maintain a world-class science base will be seriously undermined. As a nation we need to accept that some skills may be more expensive to develop or acquire but in the long term they repay that investment in terms of national growth and wealth.”

BBC broadcaster and journalist Rob Pittam facilitates the day’s discussion which will major on how organisations can work together locally for greater impact.