UK engineering could hold the key to a fairer society

Published:  12 August, 2015

Making parents, teachers and school-children more aware of the real value of vocational routes into engineering could hold the key to greater social mobility, according to a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The Social Mobility and the Engineering Profession report says that engineering careers offer greater opportunities for people of all backgrounds than careers such as law, medicine and politics.

Peter Finegold, head of engineering and Skills at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Lead Author of the report, said: “The engineering profession is well-placed to promote social mobility because unlike other high-value professions like medicine, people can pursue successful careers by completing apprenticeships.

“Apart from potentially being more affordable than completing a university degree, an apprenticeship also offers people the opportunity to focus on practical skills that are typically more transferable to the workplace than pure academic study.

“There needs to be a shift away from judging schools just on the number of leavers entering university and valuing modern apprenticeships as a viable alternative.

“Furthermore, business leaders across the spectrum agree that a vibrant engineering sector is the lynchpin to a healthy economy. Boosting the number of people pursuing engineering careers, whether through an academic or vocational route, will mean greater wealth for the UK as a whole.”

The report says that boosting the number of people pursuing engineering careers would generate an expanded skilled technical community within our society – social mobility. By ignoring the importance of engineering and modern apprenticeships will result in a persistent mismatch between the training and study choices made by young people and the real job opportunities – an ongoing skills gap and social stagnation.

The report’s key recommendations are that:

• Government makes schools and colleges fully accountable for the provision of structured careers advice through the compulsory publication of student destinations.

• Government undertakes a review of the options for changing the structure of post-16 education, specifically exploring the consequences of introducing a Baccalaureate-style approach on both academic and vocational routes, especially for economically vital sectors such as engineering.

• Government compels its careers and enterprise company to source, promote and record industry placements for teachers alongside meaningful work experience for pupils.

• The engineering community unites in highlighting to school senior leaders and governors, the financial and personal benefit of pursuing engineering training and study, to pupils of all types and from all backgrounds.

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