A new report is calling on the Government to invest £40 million in improving access to careers provision for students in schools and colleges in England, to enable more young people to understand the opportunities available in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers and so support the drive to ‘build back better’ and ‘level up’ across the UK in a ‘post-Covid world’.
‘Securing the future’, a joint report by EngineeringUK
and seven engineering and careers organisations, argues that while STEM careers provision is essential to inform and inspire young people — irrespective of their ‘gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background or other characteristics about careers in STEM’ — Covid-19 has made delivering that careers provision in schools and colleges more difficult.
Some 76% of the careers leaders and STEM teachers surveyed for the report say that it has become more difficult to engage with employers since the start of the pandemic, with many saying that careers activities have been put on hold because of time pressures.
The report also found that the ‘digital divide’ affects access to STEM careers activities in schools and colleges in England, particularly in poorer areas. Indeed, 68% of schools with above average free school meal (FSM) eligibility said a lack of access to technology and the internet was a barrier, compared to 36% of schools with below average FSM.
It recommends providing schools with more funding, estimated at around £40 million annually, to improve their careers provision, and suggests the new funding be used to better resource secondary schools and colleges in England to support all young people with their careers choices, with additional funds for STEM careers provision focused on increasing diversity in the sector.
Funding is also recommended for a dedicated STEM leader in each careers hub, whose role it would be to build schools’ STEM careers capacity by supporting and facilitating joint careers activities with employers, including work experience.
The findings also identified issues related to equality and diversity more generally that were barriers to reaching young people. These include: a lack of role models; a limited understanding of what STEM careers could entail; a ‘lack of confidence’; and a lack of awareness of available STEM careers provision.
Hilary Leevers, EngineeringUK’s chief executive, said: “The youth unemployment figures show that young people have been hit hardest by the pandemic, which has exacerbated existing issues, such as the ‘digital divide’, further reducing opportunities for young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
“At the same time, we know that the STEM sector will offer hundreds of thousands of valuable opportunities for good-quality secure employment. With the Government’s focus on developing the UK as a leader in science and ‘net zero’ and the policy of ‘building back better’, together with the ‘levelling up’ agenda, careers in STEM and engineering will be a reliable choice.
“We are urging the Government to do everything possible to ensure that all young people know about the careers opportunities available in the STEM sector now and into the future.”