Birmingham Chamber and its members have been challenged to encourage more children to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths – STEM – as businesses face a drastic shortfall of some 70,000 workers a year.

Chief executive of Millennium Point, Judith Armstrong, told a business audience that it was one of the most significant challenges facing the UK and without a radical change, key growth industries risked stalling.

“Seventy thousand jobs in the sector are each year going unfilled. It’s harming British industry and the UK economy. We all have to take responsibility for encouraging more young people to take an interest in occupations requiring study of STEM subjects,” said Judith who also highlighted that the proportion of female workers in STEM is falling.

“Only a fifth of those working in core STEM occupations are women – and they only represent 14% in science, engineering and technology management.

“Fifty thousand girls are turning away from STEM-related education every year. If we don’t reverse the trend then the labour force skills shortage that we hear so much about will only deepen,” she said.

Speaking at a breakfast organised by Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, Judith (above) called on Chamber members and businesses to start engaging with primary and secondary schoolchildren, as well as universities.

Millennium Point Trust has contributed more than £4m in STEM-related initiatives over the past four years and is developing new shared office space targeted at smaller organisations and start-ups with interests in STEM. It will also shortly unveil improvements to its ground-breaking young innovator scheme that has already funded three young people through Birmingham City University to study STEM subjects - as part of the Trust’s commitment to encouraging education in these fields.

Millennium Point is a charity which supports STEM, as well as being a unique events venue.

“Birmingham has always embraced the spirit of hard work and innovation,” said Judith. “We were here at the start of the Industrial Revolution with the industry greats walking on our streets.

“But if we are to maintain and grow the automotive sector and leading IT businesses, and support technology and engineering developments such as HS2, we have to convince young people that studying STEM offers great career opportunities.

“We have to ignite the minds of children. It is up to us - the Chamber, business and all of us as parents and grandparents - to drive this forward.

“We will be failing our young people – and the country – if we simply ignore the problem.”

For more information about Judith or the work of Millennium Point, please email [email protected]