10 April 2014
The Government’s plan to strengthen the requirement for schools to build links with employers to inspire and mentor pupils is very welcome news, yet is long overdue and will need a ‘big sell’ to employers according to the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).
The IET has long highlighted employers’ concerns about finding staff with the right skills. The IET’s most recent skills survey shows that skills gaps are at their highest level for eight years with 42 per cent of employers saying they are disappointed with the skills of new employees.
Stephanie Fernandes, from the IET, said: “The requirement for schools to get employers involved in careers education is long overdue. The news is very welcome and marks an important step towards greater collaboration between education and industry. However, the challenge will be in persuading companies to give up their time and actually go into schools and engage with young people, as well as the decision makers in schools building in flexibility within the school timetable to allow industry engagement.
“For small companies this can be particularly challenging as there are greater staff and time pressures, yet it can be rewarding for the company, too.
“There are some very good examples of companies getting involved in local schools and working with colleges, but our skills survey indicates a significant number of companies who do nothing. They know they will have difficulty recruiting the engineers they need but expect someone else will sort it out for them. The real success of this new guidance will depend on making sure employers are aware of it – and feel compelled to act on it.
“Employers complain that the school curriculum does not reflect or addresses their needs, especially in the engineering sector where the UK needs more of our young people to be encouraged and given the right academic - or vocational - foundation to become our future engineers. The problem is that they don’t always seem to understand that their role in tacking this is crucial.
“We must make sure that the impetus is not only on schools to build the relationship with employers – but also vice versa. Employers have lamented the lack of skills for a long time. Now they have the opportunity to do something about it so let’s hope they can rise to the challenge.”