We know that when manufacturers recruit young people they continue to look for attainment in English, maths and the sciences.
Three-quarters of EEF employers prioritise attainment in these key subjects when recruiting Apprentices.
But beyond these key subjects, manufacturers are looking for a little bit more – what employers often say to me as that ‘spark' in a young person, which can even override 10 GCSE grades A* to C.
7 in 10 manufacturers said they look for enthusiasm and passion for manufacturing when recruiting Apprentices.
Igniting that passion at a young age is key and it can be achieved in a variety of ways.
Firstly – work experience, which we have blogged upon time and time again. You cannot underestimate its importance (although unfortunately the Government has as there is no longer a compulsory element at any Key Stage).
Report after report, including that of the Education and Employers Taskforce, has concluded that work experience gives young people new opportunities, new skills and new insights.
Secondly, we can get young people engaged in extra-curriculum activities, through the influential work of organisations such as Primary Engineer, STEMNET, Tomorrow's Engineers and the Big Bang Fair .
The list is endless and increasingly we are seeing schools engaging with local businesses to get young people interested in industries such as manufacturing, and key subjects such as science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
But there is another way we can get young people involved and interested in engineering and manufacturing – through the Design and Technology curriculum in schools.
To be a success, the D&T curriculum must represent what exactly design and technology is, and what it entails in the real working world.
The Government recently consulted on a proposed draft curriculum for Design and Technology at Key Stages 1-3. What can be said of the draft programme of study?
I think the best way to describe the draft is to simply take the words from the Design and Technology Campaign website :
- lacks academic, or technical rigour, ambition and progression
- fails to challenge, inspire or equip talent young people to pursue careers in areas like design, manufacturing, engineering…
- threatens the future of design education, and the future of the huge range of sectors that rely on the vital skills that Design and Technology delivers.
The Design and Technology Association held a poll on their website, with 91% of respondents opposing the draft programme of study – this represented a hefty 1025 responses.
The Association, backed by big hitters such as Sir James Dyson, Dick Olver, Sir John Parker and Dick Powell, didn't just sit back and watch the consultation period come and go - it campaigned heavily against it.
Influential MPs such as Peter Luff, a real champion of manufacturing raised the issue during a debate in Westminster Hall, urging Elizabeth Truss to listen the concerns being raised.
After extensive campaigning, the Association has finally been heard. It has, together with Education for Engineering (E4E), presented an alternative programme of study to the Government, to accompany its intitial response to the consultation document.
Having seen the content of the proposed programme of study, I can confidently say that this is a curriculum that will get young people interested in industries like manufacturering, helping to ignite that spark of passion that might just nudge them into considering careers into the likes of engineering.
So what is left to do to ensure that this new, (far)improved version is taken forward?
Firstly, we call on all of industry to support the good work of the Design and Technology Association.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, we urge Government to take forward the new programme of study and give young people the chance to learn, and enjoy, the realities of design and technology.