Report

STEM Education in UK – 61 per cent felt that technical skills would have been more advantageous than academic skills

This report is not concerned with exams. It focuses on how well schools and educators are doing in helping students to develop the technical skills needed for successful careers. We surveyed STEM workers aged under 35 years to understand how they had made the journey from school to work, exploring not only their experience of education but also the support they had in making career decisions and getting their rst jobs. We think their experiences have much to tell those of us working in education and careers advice about what we can do to create pathways to a successful STEM career – and about how well we have performed to date.

The young STEM workers who took part in the survey were often students who enjoyed school but, looking back, recognized that it had not effectively prepared them for their career in STEM. The majority of young STEM workers surveyed found school too remote from the realities of working life. Many recall feeling disengaged because of the lack of connection between key skills like maths, English and computer science and their very real applications in the workplace. Two-thirds feel that they made choices about subjects without fully understanding the implications of their choices on their future careers.

Most young STEM workers involved in the survey want to see schools engaging more directly with the world of work. Contact with business can improve and refresh teachers’ knowledge and, in turn, provide opportunities for students to stimulate their interest in different careers. STEM requires a wide range of technical skills but, despite this, the young STEM workers involved in the survey said they had been unsure whether employers would value a technical education over an academic one. Furthermore, when it came to whether school had equipped them for the world of work, 61 per cent felt that technical skills would have been more advantageous than academic skills and nearly half felt the skills they learned at school were “useless” in the world of work.

As well as surveying young STEM workers we also interviewed a number of employers to get their reaction to the survey ndings. Interestingly, their experience of recruiting tells the same story: young people need a lot of investment to become job-ready and fully productive. Anything that schools can do to help young people be better prepared for work can therefore offer rich rewards for employers as well as students. An important message from employers was that knowledge alone is not enough in the workplace. The skills and judgement needed to apply knowledge matter as much as the knowledge itself.

University Technical Colleges (UTCs) have been set up to help address the issues highlighted in this report. They have developed a new model for technical schooling which is based on the close involvement of employers. The routes students take when they leave UTCs suggest the model is working. UTC leavers are more likely than average to get an apprenticeship or take up a university place and, of those leaving in 2016, only ve were not in employment, education or training.

Given the broad nature of the challenge in bridging the gap between education and work, there is much that other schools could learn from the UTC model of employer engagement.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at  From school work to real work: how education fails students in the real world

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