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Government backs F1 in Schools programme to boost global skills race

17 Jul 2013
Lewis Hamilton competes in the F1 in schools competition

The government has given its backing to a not-for-profit organisation that encourages the uptake of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects by using motorsport engineering to inspire youngsters.

The minister for UK government policy, Oliver Letwin, warned today that the country risks "falling behind in a hotly competitive global race" without rekindling students' passion for STEM subjects through similar schemes.

He signalled that countries such as India and China were producing more skilled personnel than ever before, and that this had huge potential ramifications for the UK.

Letwin's words came at an event today that marked the beginning of an agreement between F1 in Schools and software giant Autodesk, which will be providing schools with free software to assist in the designing of pupils' projects.

F1 in Schools takes students through varying stages of creating an F1 team on a small scale, including business plans, design, testing and racing in regional, national and global tournaments. The cars are designed in CAD software and raced on a 25-metre drag strip to test their aerodynamic efficiency. 

The chief executive of the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) Nigel Fine told V3 schemes like F1 in Schools would help employers tackle the problem of recruiting unprepared employees.

"It's really important because one of the things we find is that there is often a lack of preparedness for the world of work," he said.

In addition, he explained that seeing practical results from the use of IT tools would help encourage the uptake of STEM subjects later on in life. "The practical application of technology and software in schools takes this from being a theoretical subject to being something students can get their hands on and see the results of the work that they've done," Fine said.

The IT education landscape in the UK is currently going through a radical shake-up, following stern warnings of significant STEM skills shortfalls. Earlier in July, the Department for Education announced the induction of ‘tech levels', a form of vocational course that can gain the same recognition as university degrees.

Last week, the Computing curriculum also underwent significant change, with children as young as five now being introduced to computer programming.

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Michael Passingham

Michael Passingham joined V3 as a reporter in June 2013. Prior to working at V3, Michael spent time at computing magazine PC Pro. Michael covers IT skills, social media, tech startups and also produces V3's video content.

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