Employer Engagement

Girls, Apprenticeships, STEM & The Tower of Babel

Tuesday 25th March 2014

During Ed question time yesterday the following exchange took place I have edited the political waffle but you can access the full account here

Engineering Apprenticeships (16 to 18-year-old Girls)

Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab):
What steps his Department is taking to encourage girls aged 16 to 18 to consider taking up engineering apprenticeships. [903214]

The Minister for Skills and Enterprise (Matthew Hancock):
Since 2010, the number of women starting engineering and manufacturing apprenticeships has increased threefold.

Mr Wright:
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers says that 92% of girls choose not to take triple science as a subject beyond the age of 14, which effectively disbars them from a career in engineering. Engineering UK says that 83% of all young people do not have access to STEM-related work experience. How on earth do the Government's policies of ending face-to-face careers advice and downgrading work experience help to encourage girls into engineering?...

Matthew Hancock:
I will. A very high proportion of those who go into apprenticeships, and STEM apprenticeships in particular, stay on in a job or continue into a higher-quality apprenticeship. That progression is one reason why apprenticeships are such a valued institution....

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con):
When I visit engineering and manufacturing companies in my Bury North constituency, they often say that not just girls, but boys find the idea of taking up trades off-putting because they are noisy, dirty and sometimes smelly. Does the Minister agree that the teachers in our schools need to do more to encourage people of both sexes to take up such jobs?

Matthew Hancock:
Absolutely. The very best people to do that are the people who are in those careers themselves and who can show what a modern engineering workplace looks like. They tend to be problem-solving institutions that are exciting and that pay well, which I find is a message that goes down particularly well with apprentices.

So once more we have the Vince Cable, "Teachers should know" standpoint, the Gove "Get the employers in." refrain and nobody, apart from careers professionals, taking on board that you're effectively creating (excuse my bibilical metaphors here) a Tower of Babel situation.

Teachers have more than enough to do without having to learn the working intracies of the STEM, or any other, workplace. Employers have more than enough to do without having to learn how to engage and support large groups of young people. You need the interpreter, in this case the obvious expert available is a careers adviser, to support all 3 parties, teachers, employers and young people.

So Messrs Hancock, Wright & Nuttall. I refer you to my previous post highlighting the excellent piece of work done by @LizzieTaylor20, published as a briefing paper for Careers England