Schools don't understand the skills employers need, Stem workers say

28th February 2017 at 00:02
science, technology, engineering, mathematics, maths, stem, careers, apprenticeships, university technology colleges, utcs, academic subjects, technical education
Many of those working in science, technology, engineering and maths careers did not realise that the subjects they studied at school could affect their career choices

Almost two-thirds of young people working in sciencetechnology and engineering careers believe that schools do not understand which skills employers are going to need, a new study shows.

Similar numbers did not understand that the subjects that they studied at school would affect their future, according to research by OnePoll for the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, the organisation behind University Technical Colleges.

A thousand people aged between 20 and 35, currently working in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) careers, were surveyed about how well they felt their schooling had prepared them for work.

Many felt that there was a fundamental misunderstanding between schools and Stem employers. Some 60 per cent believed that teachers did not have a sufficient understanding of the labour market. And a similar proportion – 63 per cent – said that schools did not understand which skills employers need.

This lack of understanding trickled down to the pupils, the Stem workers said. More than half – 55 per cent – said that they had not understood as pupils how the subjects they studied at school could be used in the world of work. And 66 per cent said that students did not realise that the subjects they studied at school could affect their future.

Contextualised learning

Nearly half – 45 per cent – said that the subjects they studied at school were useless in the world of work. Some 61 per cent would have liked to study technical skills instead.

Recent research by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development found that more than a quarter of pupils in England hoped to be working in a science-related career by the time they were 30 years old.

However, the new survey reveals that 55 per cent of those working in Stem careers did not understand how the subjects they had learned at school could be used in the world of work.

And 63 per cent did not feel that employers had enough say in the subjects that schools taught.

The trust quoted Ian Iceton, human-resources director at Network Rail, who said too much time in traditional education was spent imparting knowledge, and not enough was spent teaching pupils how to apply it.

“To me, knowledge is important,” he said. “But it’s the skills and judgment to know how to use that knowledge that really makes an individual stand out.”

But NUT general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “The fact that these issues exist does not mean that University Technical Colleges (UTCs) are the solution. Schools don’t just serve the purpose of preparing young people for the world of work, but in helping them to become well-rounded learners who can thrive in an ever-changing world and job market.

"Moving young people into UTCs could limit their options at 14, which would have a negative impact upon achieving these goals." 

Lord Baker, chairman of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, said: “As we head towards Brexit, the challenge for our education system is to ensure that we equip students with the skills they need to forge successful careers in key areas like science, engineering and computing, which our economy increasingly demands.”

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