WARNING: Content contains some ranting on careers provision

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If what I spoke about/blogged about most was trending on Twitter, the screen would probably read as follows:

Verity Trends#STEM#Womeninmanufacturing#Skillsshortages#careersadvice#poorcareersadvice#musttacklepoorcareersadvice

So a couple of weeks ago I made a promise to myself not to moan and groan on the blog about #careersadvice. Then the Student Room published a report just days before A-level results day which in summary found that students are not being given the right #careersadvice, so I am afraid blog readers are in a minor #careersadvice rant. But as it's a Monday and I don't want to be getting our readers down, so I've picked out some more jolly facts and figures to lighten the mood.

Some jolly facts from The Student Room report:

47% of students said work experience or talking to people in industry is most effective at convincing them to choose a certain career.

This is something we have always championed. Indeed seven in ten EEF members offer work experience to young people and half offer school or site visits. Our recent higher education report also suggested that those graduates with some industry experience can find themselves ahead of the game when it comes to seeking employment.

Careers advisors/tutors were ranked joint-third with talking to students and recent graduates at 13%.

This for me was slightly surprising. We talk about the need for students and graduates to go back to schools and universities to talk about their careers, yet this figure suggests perhaps this isn't always what prospective pupils want? Interested to find out a bit more on this from The Student Room.

The key motivation for those going straight into employment was to earn money (71%).

Well step right up and enter into a career in engineering, where the average starting salary for an engineering and technology graduate is £26,019 – around a fifth more than for all graduates.

The most useful source of information and advice was identified as university open days (54%), following by university websites (51% and prospectuses (41%).

There has been a big push by government to make the National Careers Service the go to place for information on careers, but for prospective university graduates it is clear that more targeted information is of greater value. And just like looking around sites and plants, going to look around higher education establishments proves to be the most effective source of information. What the Student Room also found was sites such as UCAS were a useful source of information. As an aside, EEF would like to see the same sort of platform available to employers so they too can access relevant information on higher education.

And the not so jolly parts:

Over a quarter (27%) felt they did not have enough information on alternatives to university.

I often get asked whether manufacturers prefer to recruit a graduate or an apprentice. And the honest answer is both are as valuable. Two-thirds of EEF members have recruited a manufacturing and engineering apprentice in the past 12 months and two-thirds plan to recruit an engineering graduate. And with manufacturers increasingly demanding higher-level skills what we are seeing is an appetite for young people with a combination of vocational and academic profiles such as those that have undertaken a Higher Apprenticeship.

And for the big one - 47% rated the quality of careers advice at 5/10 or below

Oh dear. Not much else to say. We know careers provision is poor (see previous blogs one, two and three). But why is nothing being done about it? Not many young people know about the career opportunities in manufacturing, and indeed not many teachers know either. The industry also has a fight on its hands to get more females into industry with stat after stat suggesting we're hardly scratching the surface.

Yes, industry has a key role to play in delivering careers advice itself. Going into schools to talk about their careers, sending their apprentices and graduates back to schools (although the report now suggests this is less effective), offering work experience and site visits. We also need to step up when it comes to grand events like the Big Bang Fair which are hugely effective in getting young people interested in engineering.

But there is still a niggle that those involved – government, industry, the education sector are not joined up. Roundtable after roundtable we sit and discuss (and get on our soapboxes) how careers provision is poor, we agree that action needs to be taken and what those actions are. But if almost half of students are rating the quality of careers advice at 5/10 or below – we are still failing to get it right - so I invite the question, what is it we are doing wrong?

Having responded to consultations and inquiries on this, we have some ideas from us that we have continued to push forward:

Careers ‘awareness' or ‘inspiration' should begin in Primary School, with careers ‘guidance' being introduced later at Secondary School

The good work of external organisations that promote specific careers, such as Primary Engineer, should be embedded in other subject lessons.

The current guidance for schools should be more assertive as to what should be delivered and head teachers should ensure that teachers are given clear objectives as to what careers provision should achieve. There should also be a stronger focus on employer engagement.

Government should explore ways to incentivise schools to offer alternative pathways such as Higher Apprenticeships.

Work experience should be seen as beneficial at both KS4 and KS5 and should be encouraged at both Key Stages.

Government should explore the possibility of assessing employability within schools to encourage schools to be proactive in getting young people prepared for the world of work.

There should be a continual professional development requirement for teachers to spend between two to five working days a year each within a business to gain first-hand experience of the workplace.

Average earnings of occupations, specifically STEM roles should be published in a place accessible to all young people.

Government must be fully committed to programmes that promote specific industries such as See Inside Manufacturing and ensure that demand from schools meets the supply provided by employers. Furthermore, it must encourage those schools and businesses that are currently unengaged in such activities.

Government must increase the number of specialist STEM teachers in schools.

Government should allow state schools, as well as Free Schools and Academies, to employ professionals without Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) to both ensure an even playing field and give all pupils access to be taught by industry professionals.

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Head of Education & Skills Policy

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