The study, the result of a six-month analysis by the ABPI Science, Technology, Engineering and Manufacturing (STEM) Education & Skills Taskforce, recognised Government commitment to science - but highlighted particular shortages in chemistry, clinical pharmacology and in vivo biology.
Responses from companies also show a decline in higher level mathematics skills among life scientists and major knowledge gaps in other areas of use to industry. Real concern was expressed by industry survey respondents that, thanks to constrained curricula, graduates lack practical "hands on" laboratory experience - an essential element for industrial scientist. There are also insufficient specialist physics/chemistry teachers and limited opportunity for work placements. Worryingly, awareness of the wide variety of science careers available within the pharmaceutical industry among school pupils and science graduates is low.
"This report serves as a call to action for society to fill the growing science skills gap," said ABPI Director of Science & technology, Dr Philip Wright. "The Government has been a real champion for science, but if the UK economy, especially the research-based pharmaceutical industry, is to flourish then we need to work more intensively with Government to equip the next generation with the skills to succeed."
Recommendations included within the report call for all stakeholders to work together to arrest the decline. They include changes that could be made to the curriculum alongside greater commitment from science-based industries to support science education and promote careers. Other recommendations include:
The establishment of a school diploma in science (for ages 14-19) - a vocational/practical science qualification at a similar level to A-level.
Better coordination by stakeholders of careers information so that students find out about potential careers and see the link with lessons. The ABPI will produce more information for schools, including a new ABPI careers website.
A Government strategy, involving all stakeholders, for the teaching of in vivo science in the UK, from schools to universities.
A major investment in training and support for teachers via the Science Learning Centre, supported by the private sector, to update practical skills and give them confidence to develop more challenging science lessons.
An industry-wide review to co-ordinate and enhance companies' programmes of school visits, young scientist days and work placements.
For further information, please contact: ABPI Press Office 020 7747 1410