Addressing key topics within the education and skills sector.
Engineering and manufacturing are key to the UK’s economic well-being and growth. To this end, Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) should be given a key position in the curriculum and must be taught STEM by teachers with appropriate subject qualifications. STEM education should be challenging and engaging, relevant to ‘real life’ and with a high degree of practical content. It is clear to see that education in engineering benefits when students are able to interact with individuals working in industry or with recent experience in industry.
Engineering and manufacturing offer a wide range of rewarding and well-paid careers for engineers and technicians of all levels. High quality careers education and guidance must be widely available so that young people have the opportunity to learn about the exciting career opportunities in STEM sectors and in engineering in particular. The IET (along with other organisations) are working hard to increase availability of high quality careers guidance and information about STEM careers. However, it is vital that Government must ensure that state provision of careers education and guidance improves significantly.
Improving the image of STEM, particularly amongst women, is another challenge that the sector faces, but there is no quick fix. Many organisations including the IET are working hard to improve the image of STEM, but continued co-ordinated support from government and across the “STEM Community” is essential.
The IET carries out annual IET skills surveys to gauge the state of skills in the engineering and technology sectors. The 2013 survey reports that 42% of the employers asked, said their recent recruits did not meet reasonable skill expectations and the biggest gap is due to lack of practical experience. It is important therefore to encourage a greater uptake of higher level apprenticeships.
Furthermore, as the survey found that only 7% of the workforce is female, more needs to be done to encourage and inspire women to enter and remain in the profession. This would help to address the skills shortage as there would be a larger pool from which employers can recruit.