Schools Struggle To Prepare Students For Technical Careers

February 28, 2017 9:49 am

STEM workers achieve successful careers despite their schooling

A new report released today by the charity that promotes University Technical Colleges such as Lincoln UTC reveals that nearly half (45%) of 20-35 year olds working in STEM related roles (science, technology, engineering and maths) believe the subjects they studied at school are useless in the world of work. A greater number (61%) thought that learning technical skills would have been more useful than studying traditional academic subjects

The survey of one thousand young STEM workers was commissioned by Baker Dearing Educational Trust. It found that three out of five (60%) of those surveyed didn’t believe teachers had a sufficient understanding of the labour market and a similar number (63%) felt that schools didn’t understand the skills employers needed.

“At Lincoln UTC we are proud of our support offered to students,” says Paul Batterbury, Interim Principal. “Through our Career Mark 6 programme, students experience frequent work experience opportunities, as well as a wide variety of employer-led presentations. We focus on reflecting the experience of the work place as well as the skills, such as teamwork and resilience, needed by future employers. Many of our students successfully join the companies where they first did work experience.”

Three out of five of those surveyed (63%) felt employers didn’t have enough say in what schools teach and over half of respondents (55%) also admitted that they didn’t understand how the subjects they learnt at school could be used in the world of work.

Lord Baker, Chairman, Baker Dearing Educational Trust says: “As we head towards Brexit the challenge for our education system is to ensure 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. This report shows that the current education system fails to provide these young people with opportunities to develop the technical skills they need to get the jobs they want.

“Every attempt to improve technical and hands-on vocational learning since 1870 has failed – most killed by snobbery.  UTCs are part of a small minority of schools which are attempting to meet the skills demands of industry and give students a well-rounded education to help them meet their full potential.  UTCs exist because students want them, employers like them and the economy needs them.”

Recent research by OECD[1] suggests more than a quarter of pupils (28%) in England hope to be working in a science-related career by the time they are 30 years old. However, the findings in this report suggest there is a big disconnect between what young people are learning in schools and what employers demand of them in the workplace.

Other findings

  • Computer science, maths and English were by far the most popular subjects and 70% felt this was because they had relevance to the real world.
  • Half (53%) of respondents thought employers preferred an academic rather than a technical education.
  • More than half (59%) of respondents reported that they received a poor standard of careers advice.
  • The experiences of the youngest STEM workers that were surveyed suggests that winning the first STEM job is much more challenging now than before. Half of the STEM workers surveyed aged between 32 and 35 secured their first job within five job applications but, amongst those aged between 20 and 22, just 31 per cent managed this.

[1] OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 report

Categorised in: