In case you have missed it this week is #BritishSandwichWeek.
(It’s been the week of the new Cabinet, the arrival of 56 SNP MPs to Westminster, Nigel Farage resigning as leader of UKIP, but then his resignation being rejected and of course another epic episode of Game of Thrones - so I won’t blame you if you have).
Today's blog is about sandwiches...well sort of
The history behind the sandwich
The sandwich was invented/came about by the 4th Earl of Sandwich. The Earl was a keen gambler and didn’t care much for leaving the gambling table mid-game so instead of stopping for dinner he requested that meat between two slices of bread was bought to him – and so the sandwich was introduced to the world.
Is she seriously going to blog about sandwiches?
No. I’m not here to talk about sandwiches (well I could talk about the manufacturing of sandwiches but I may save that for next year) but I’m actually going to blog about sandwich….courses.
The importance of industry experience
We have blogged previously on manufacturers’ demand for graduates with industry experience. Four in five manufacturers say they are struggling to recruit and over half say this because candidates lack relevant industry experience.
So how do we ensure that new entrants have industry experience?
With apprentices, it’s quite clear – apprenticeships are a combination of on-the-job training (time spent in the workplace) and academic and technical learning. Therefore manufacturing and engineering apprentices, who on average spend four years training, spend a significant amount of time in the workplace, therefore acquiring vital industry experience.
For graduates, the story is slightly different – yes they acquire technical skills through their degree, but not all graduates spend time in industry. Some will take placements or internships or undertake work experience possibly outside of study hours, but there is no compulsory element – unless students specifically chose a sandwich degree course.
The decline of the sandwich course
The number of degrees which include a placement (sandwich courses) is on the decline, and this was well documented in the Wilson Review of business-university collaboration. In its annual report of engineering, Engineering UK, using HESA student record data, found that across all subjects only 8.3% of students take sandwich degrees.
Engineering and Technology fares slightly better in that 18.3% of students take sandwich degrees – but that is still less than one in five. There is also a gender difference with females less likely to take placement years.
Across all STEM subjects the proportion of students that take sandwich degrees is 12% - low numbers from biological sciences (5.9%) and physical sciences (6.9%) are (albeit slightly) balanced by a higher number of computer science students that opt for sandwich degrees (24.2%).
In short. This is simply not enough.
In our 2015 Skills Manifesto we stated that placements (that form the sandwich course) should be part of STEM courses. The argument for industry experience is just too strong to ignore. There may need to be support in place for students, universities and employers, but we need to start from a point where gaining industry experience is the norm….not the exception.