Schools and industry need to come together to deliver the skills

Posted By : Anna Flockett
Schools and industry need to come together to deliver the skills

Boosting links between schools and industry, the UK is keen to deliver sufficient people with the right skills as part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, according to a new report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The Apprenticeships in the education and skills landscape of England report said the Industrial Strategy needs to take a sectoral and regional approach, including engagement between local employers and education providers, to ensure that industries have the skilled people they need entering the workforce.

The report calls for the vital need to change public perceptions of apprenticeships; for Professional Engineering Institutions to develop new standards for all Vocational Qualification levels; and for more funding for teachers’ continuing professional development.

Dr Colin Brown, Director of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Lead Author of the report, said: “The Government has taken welcome steps to revitalise UK apprenticeships, but in order to deliver skills in shortage areas such as engineering, more work is needed to change perceptions. Apprenticeships need to be seen as equally valuable routes to employment not, as is still too often the case, as alternatives for people who are less academically gifted.

“Key ways of shifting perceptions include encouraging better links between schools and local industry, including for teachers to be encouraged to complete placements in local companies through schemes like STEM Insight.

“In order to give prospective engineering apprentices and employers assurance of the quality of training, Professional Engineering Institutions, such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, should also offer standards for all Vocational Qualification levels in conjunction with the Institute for Apprenticeships.

“The Government’s Industrial Strategy provides us with a much needed chance to invigorate the UK’s industry and economy, but none of this will be possible without the right skills in place to deliver these plans. As the UK gets ready to leave the EU, ensuring the UK is ready to develop its own home-grown skills has never been more important.”

The report makes five recommendations:

  1. The Professional Engineering Institutions must provide guidance on need, and ensure maintenance of personal competence standards, as apprenticeship volumes increase. Standards need to be developed for all Vocational Qualification levels as well as those that naturally fit the EngTech, IEng and CEng grades.
  2. The Government’s Apprenticeship Levy to fund stakeholder communication and engagement activity as well as provide quality delivery. Public perceptions are as great a barrier as affordability for both the apprentice and the employer, especially for the SME sector.
  3. The Industrial Strategy team to develop plans that meet the needs of each region and industrial sector. Targeting specific issues one-by-one, for example in advanced manufacturing skills, will have more impact than general incentives. More work such as the DFT Skills Strategy should be encouraged.
  4. Schools to be part of a robust, modern, well-resourced, cradle-to-grave, careers strategy that will bring about the necessary changes in perceptions. The new T-Level qualifications will fail if they are not accompanied by a change in attitudes to technical education. Teachers, parents and young people are guided in many ways by the regulatory framework we place on our schools – and these do not reward knowledge of technical education.
  5. Government in England to reassess its approach to teachers’ Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Investment in CPD will retain more experienced STEM teachers in the profession, leading to an increased subject awareness and broader interest from students.

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