Concern is growing among employers at the rapid decline in young people’s interest in the subjects, particularly in science. The issue was debated with vigour by delegates at a meeting of the Sparc technology network in October.

Businesses, universities and schools are working together to stage the science festival, which aims to encourage students towards a career in the sector. Sparc network director Chris Dunkley (pictured) said: “Young people’s interest in science is in decline, which has already led to Reading University’s physics department closing down, among others. Employers are increasingly worried about the long-term decline in scientists and technologists coming out of our universities.”

The serious problem of recruitment facing science, engineering and technology companies was highlighted at the Sparc meeting by keynote speaker John Zarnecki, professor of space science at the Open University, director of the Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space and Astronomical Research and principal investigator for the Huygens probe to Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

He said: “It is clear we need role models in science and technology to share their enthusiasm for science and help to persuade them to study the core individual science subjects.”

A report written for the Royal Astronomical Society last year warned that Britain risked being isolated on the international stage if it continues its long-standing refusal to fund the human exploration of space. Professor Zarnecki said: “UK-born astronauts must have a dual passport and fly under a foreign flag. This is not a positive message to give to young people.”

Sparc sponsor Invest Milton Keynes is involved in the planning of the science festival. Director of investment Grant Seeley said: “One of the primary aims is to engage young people in the region in science, engineering and technology and to provide a focus for young people to get involved in SET events. Our aim is to raise their aspirations to encourage them to consider potential careers.”

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