Belfast Telegraph

Subject choices 'show future aims'

The increase in the number of students in Northern Ireland studying science, mathematics and technology shows they are thinking more carefully about their future, Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry has said.

Entries for A-level technology were up 9% and physics rose by almost 7%, said the awarding body.

The computing and technology sector is central to future economic growth and attracting foreign direct investment to Northern Ireland, ministers added.

Mr Farry said the improved take-up showed people were "thinking more carefully about their future, there are opportunities being created in those types of jobs".

He said: "We can do projections of the type of employment likely to have more opportunities and we know the particular sectors: ICT, business services, health and public sciences and advanced engineering, employers need people with higher level skills."

Studies suggest graduates earn more because of their qualification, although it tends to be skewed towards certain areas of demand in the wider economy. In 2010 employees with a degree earned 85% more than those educated to around GCSE level, according to the Office for National Statistics.

In Northern Ireland A-level entries in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects increased this year, said the Joint Council for Qualifications. The number of biology pupils rose by 0.6%; chemistry by 1.9%; maths by 0.9%; physics by 6.9% and technology by 9.2%.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster visited Empowering Change in Emerald Valley, a privately funded entrepreneurial incubation centre in Newry, Co Down, which provides co-working space for a number of technology and other business start-ups.

She said: "The ICT sector is central to our future economic growth and so it is hugely encouraging to see facilities such as this, which gives assistance to innovative and cutting-edge companies in areas such as web design, social media and digital marketing.

"My department, through Invest Northern Ireland, will continue to offer support to fledgling businesses in the ICT sector as we seek to attract high-quality investment here."

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