Thousands of students have deserted college courses in engineering, technology and manufacturing, with potentially damaging consequences for the economy, research has found.
Figures from the Engineering and Technology Board showed a 26 per cent fall across Britain in student numbers on these vocational courses over the last three years.
The board warned that the decline threatened to undermine the future health of British industry, with two million people currently employed as engineering technicians.
John Morton, ETB chief executive, welcomed a rise in the number of university undergraduates taking engineering courses but said the picture in FE was more worrying.
But he went on: "The huge decrease in the number of students on engineering courses in further education is making the Treasury-commissioned Leitch review on the skills needed in the UK seem less like a warning and more of a prediction.
"If we don't turn the tide on the number of skilled technicians, the UK will experience diminishing economic growth."
George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor at Westminster, described the decline in college courses as "startling. Britain was once the engineering workshop of the world," he said, "but now we are strug-gling to keep up in the face of exremely fierce global competition."