How do we convince the teachers?

Engineering UK has published its excellent Engineering UK 2012 report, and as is usually the case with these thoroughly comprehensive reports, there is some really good news and some not-so-good news.

Careers advice
89% of STEM teachers see the provision of careers advice as part of their role, but research finds that if they did give careers advice, 21% of STEM teachers saw engineering careers as undesirable. Note – that’s 21% of STEM teachers! Clearly there’s a whole lot of work to be done here to convince them of the desirability of engineering careers.

Employer engagement is now commonplace during education. The overwhelming majority of pupils undertake work placements – usually 2 weeks around the age of 15. This delivers knowledge, access to networks and also guides them in terms of what they can expect in their careers.

Apprenticeships are recognised as being critical to even small businesses

The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) are preparing a strategy to increase the number of STEM apprenticeships in order to:

  • encourage more employers to engage with apprenticeships
  • ensure there is an appropriate framework to meet current and future demand
  • understand and stimulate the system to deliver STEM apprenticeships
  • work with STEM employers and related parties to increase the number of STEM apprenticeships for SMEs
  • promote career opportunities in STEM-based occupations

And especially good news is that the NAS vision is that by 2020, every employer will value an apprenticeship as the key route to equipping them with the skills they need for their business. And spend on apprenticeships continues to rise.

Quantitative degrees typically command higher salaries. “Virtually every UK student who applies for an engineering degree is offered a place”.

Research by HECSU referred to in the report confirms what we’ve known all along…
unpaid experience often leads to paid employment“. 20% of the 14,000 graduates surveyed in 2010 had worked for their current employers as a student before applying for a graduate role. And further research by the BIS shows that interns who received training benefit from substantial development of their employability-related skills.

Investment banking predictably does well, with the highest predicted starting salary (£38,250), but worryingly, education has the lowest predicted starting salary (£22,750). As ever, we seem to treat education sector particularly badly from a salary perspective – hardly fair or appropriate given the challenges (and expectations) identified earlier.

Starting salaries for engineering and technology roles are competitive at £24,953.

The number and quality of STEM graduates is regarded as a key priority for business.

One interesting idea proposed by 40% of SMEs is that larger organisations should be encouraged (by government) to train more apprentices than they need themselves, in order to benefit the smaller firms – a nice idea, but this might be hard for many companies to account for. Maybe by making it part of the Corporate Social Responsibility programme, it might be easier to swallow? After all, isn’t this exactly the essence of corporate social responsibility?


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