When do academic subjects transform into skills and careers?

It’s always puzzled me, when do ‘subjects we’re good at’ turn into ‘realistic jobs we want to do’?

Careers fairs, as commonplace as they are, should be for the end of our conversation with young people, not the start.

According to Engineering UK’s 2020 Report: Education Pathways into Engineering, 47%, almost half of our under 19-year-olds, have little or no understanding about what engineers actually do. It is no wonder then, that we’re an industry struggling to fill our skills gaps and talent pipeline.

Entries for maths and double science GCSEs rose by 4% and 5% respectively in 2019, whereas entries for engineering and design and technology fell by 31% and 22% respectively; so young people are choosing the subjects that underpin our industry, but not qualifications that link directly.

The FE white paper: Skills for Jobs, published in January starts to address that grand chasm between education and employment. Many are suggesting it’s a long time coming, or it’s too little too late, but for future generations it’s most certainly a step in the right direction.

One of my careers fair memories, when we were allowed in a group of more than 6, was a young year 9 student, running riot through the fair. I stopped him and asked what he wanted to do after school. He had no idea what he could do. After a short conversation about what he was good at; maths and science, off he went to look at engineering, finance and aerospace (well, we were in Bristol!).

Skills for Jobs certainly puts some of the responsibility at the feet of employers. We have to provide our teachers with the confidence to talk about our industries. They form one of the largest pools of influencers UK PLC has. So how best can businesses support our teachers?

For more information, explore our early careers opportunities.