Should we be tuning in for careers advice?

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We have continued to call for careers advice for young people that is informed, impartial and face-to-face. Whilst this is important, careers provision also needs accessible – and maybe that is where we need to be a bit more creative.

Last week, EEF members launched an initiative with Primary Engineer to help inspire the next generation of young engineers in their local area. Thirty manufacturers in the North East committed to sponsoring schools to host a Primary Engineer course, which aims to encourage primary and secondary pupils to consider STEM careers.

This includes courses to help teachers apply practical maths and science skills to modern design and technology projects, which they can then take back to their classrooms, and pupils invited to take part in local, regional and national challenges to celebrate their achievements in design and technology.

Going round speaking to the Year 6 and 7 pupils at the launch, it was great to see almost all of them say they wanted to be engineers, and a handful saying they wanted to be the next Brian Cox. But it was only through learning about STEM by working on ‘cool and fun' (their words) projects that they had learnt what a career in engineering could be.

In Primary School it seems then we are heavily influenced by the activities we do as well as who we engage with (friends, teachers). But what about when young people move into secondary school and lunchtime conversations may centre around who has the latest IPhone and who watched the final of Britain's Got Talent.

The Lords Science and Technology Committee recommended that to encourage more young people into STEM, we should develop a STEM App for young people that gives them accessible, portal information about career in STEM. This, together with more ‘traditional' methods, is where we need to be heading, because young people aren't just influenced by their parents, or a teacher, or their friends, although they will remain the primary influences but a combination of factors.

Take for example television. Last year UCAS figures revealed a 17 per cent rise in students seeking to learning midwifery. And what determined this surge? It was the BBC drama Call the Midwife, according to the programme's director. Now we could put this down to coincidence, but a 17% increase is pretty significant. I am sure that there are police officers out there once inspired by The Bill or doctors that took a shine to the profession by watching Casualty.

So if this really is the case, maybe we need something for our sector, and I think I may have it – TOWIE – The Only Way Is Engineering. A programme that follows a selection of engineers from all backgrounds, with varying levels of experience. It could observe their day-to-day activities and tasks, include interviews of them looking back to how they got to where they are now. There could also be a specific episode on what choices they had to make (subject choices, school, college, university choices) to enable them to secure a job.

Given the world of engineering is more exciting than ever, wouldn't be needing a narrator telling our viewers ‘some of what you see has been staged purely for your entertainment.'

Fortunately, this year's UCAS applications for engineering were actually up by 8.4% so maybe my TOWIE idea can stay on the backburner for now, but we do need to get thinking about where young people go for information, and that's where careers advice needs to be.

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Head of Education & Skills Policy

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