Careers Advice For All Pupils Is Key To UK Skills Gap Says Study

Kedleston Road campus 504x257 Careers Advice For All Pupils Is Key To UK Skills Gap Says Study

Date posted: 11 October 2013

All secondary school children should be encouraged to think earlier about future technical careers through better careers advice which brings jobs knowledge into the classroom, says a University of Derby study.

A shortfall in the number of graduates and other qualified people entering the UK workforce with science, technology, engineering and maths (or STEM) subject knowledge could be reduced by better approaches to careers advice at secondary school age (11-years-old and above), says the International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS); the University's applied research centre for career development and employability.

The study - just published by the National STEM Centre, funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation - asked senior staff in nine volunteer schools in Walsall, Sheffield, Mansfield, Darlington, North Shields, Hull and Oldham how they helped pupils learn about STEM-based careers. There was then a follow-up survey nationally.

A common problem was found to be that busy schools and their teaching staff, with more urgent concerns such as setting curricula and exams success, might lack the time or resources to invest in better careers support for pupils.

Looking at factors which shape how school leaders do and could make STEM subjects more attractive the report, by iCeGS Principal Research Fellow Jo Hutchinson, concluded that a range of career-related learning opportunities in school would help young people explore their own strengths, values and ambitions; helping them make better decisions about subject choices, learning pathways, and ultimately successful and rewarding careers.

The iCeGS report - called School Organisation and STEM Career-related Learning- recommends schools:

  • evaluate careers advice they currently provide and publish a plan explaining how they will ensure all pupils receive independent career guidance;
  • give teachers designing and managing STEM career-related learning time to develop projects, and give them adequate space within the school curriculum;
  • use the experience of teachers who've come from other careers (business, technical, self-employed, etc) to enrich the school's STEM career-related programmes;
  • run extra-curricular activities recognising that not all STEM career-related activity should be about pupils going onto university and graduate careers, but also into more vocational work, at post-16.

Jo Hutchinson, Principal Research Fellow at iCeGS and report author, said: "There remains widespread concern among UK business organisations at the current and projected shortfall in the number of people coming into the workforce with STEM knowledge. One estimate puts this at 40,000 fewer STEM graduates per year than there should be.

"Part of tackling this is to devote more time and expertise towards getting pupils thinking about careers in STEM subjects at a younger age than we currently do. Children who are enthused about potential careers in these areas are much more likely to go on to study such subjects at further and higher education level, and develop careers relating to them."

For more information about the work of the International Centre for Guidance Studies at the University of Derby see link

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