NORTHERN Ireland needs more schoolchildren studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects if the economy is to compete on a global basis.
That was the message from Jim Stewart, chairman of STEM group Sentinus, at a science fair in the Odyssey Arena aimed at encouraging students to take more science-based subjects.
He raised concerns over the commitment of the current curriculum to STEM subjects here.
"Within Northern Ireland we have unfortunately been falling behind in this global race and the current curriculum commitment to the delivery of STEM subjects in our schools fall far short of what is needed to compete with the strongest economies in the world," he said.
"In many primary schools STEM subjects are barely given lip service while in secondary schools there is no requirement for students to take STEM subjects, with the exception of maths, at GCSE."
This, Mr Stewart said, means employers won't be able to find workers with adequate skills.
"Our concern is that we are barely able to meet the needs of current employers seeking such skills and if we are serious about becoming a strong knowledge economy, it is imperative that we act now and prioritise STEM on our school curriculums," he said.
The Sentinus Young Innovators Exhibition is the organisation's flagship event where hundreds of school children from across the island of Ireland come together to showcase their innovative STEM projects.
Sentinus is an educational charity working with over 60,000 young people a year in Northern Ireland to deliver fun and rewarding programmes that promote engagement in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
The projects on show have been developed through a number of Sentinus programmes in partnership with Sentinus Ambassadors, the NI business community and local institutions.
This year innovative projects ranged from a non-electric fridge for Africa and a biodome to support human life on different planets to an environmentally friendly slug catcher and a safety jacket for the visually impaired.