As manufacturing growth builds momentum, industry's employers are crying out for more talented young people with the right skills. There are a number of commonly cited facts and figures on the increasing skills demand from manufacturing and engineering, including Engineering UK's prediction that engineering companies will have 2.74million job openings from 2010 to 2020, and 1.86million of these will need engineering skills.
Today's A-levels results have showed a continued, and very much welcomed trend of more and more young people studying maths and the sciences. 2013 has not buckled this trend with more young people took biology, chemistry, physics and maths, and similar numbers achieving A* - B grades as the previous year.
For those young people wishing to pursue an academic pathway towards a career in manufacturing, and therefore choosing to study an engineering degree, taking these subjects at A-level is crucial. Many engineering disciplines require qualifications in maths and the sciences as a prerequisite to studying engineering disciplines at university. Trends in take up of such subjects at A-level have simultaneously seen an increase in the number of applications to study engineering at university with the number of applications for engineering from 18 year olds increasing 8.6% between 2010 and 2013.
Today's results are a success story for the industry, but one challenge still lies ahead – encouraging more girls to study subjects such as physics and maths at A-level. The gulf between the numbers of young females and males studying physics is extraordinary, and supports the worrying fact that 49% of state co-education schools in England did not send any girls to study Physics at A level in 2011. Essentially girls risk ruling themselves out because of the subject choices at Key Stage 5.
Of course young people receiving A-level results today aren't bound to taking an academic route into manufacturing and engineering – young people choosing vocational pathways are just as attractive to manufacturers. And manufacturers have ample opportunities for vocational learners as two-thirds of EEF members currently offer Apprenticeships. Speaking to member companies it is clear that the appetite to offer more Advanced and Higher Apprenticeships is increasing and so young people achieving Key Stage 5 qualifications in the right subjects are in popular demand.
Yet the vocational pathway into manufacturing careers is again less attractive for girls. Whilst the numbers of females taking engineering and manufacturing Apprenticeships have increase 80% over the past ten years, this still represents just 5% of places.
If we are to close the gender gap, and overcome the fact that 9 in 10 profession engineers are male, we need to see a stronger focus on careers advice in schools. Careers inspiration must start in Primary School, as a light touch approach. Then, as young people enter Secondary School, this must be must accelerated into informed and impartial careers guidance, with all young people having access to an independent face-to-face advice.
This must also be accompanying by offering more opportunities for work experience at schools so young people can better understand valuable jobs within industries such as manufacturing. Government must then restore compulsory work experience at Key Stage 4 as a very minimum, with work placements encouraged at Key Stage 5 also. No young person should be leaving the education system at 18 without real experience of the world of work.
Such measures should go some way to overcoming the results from a recent survey that only 8% of 16 to 17 year olds would consider a job in manufacturing, and almost half admit they know little about the manufacturing industry.
Fingers crossed that those young people collecting their A-Level results today have had the chance to hear about, and see first-hand, the great opportunities associated with a career in manufacturing.