Charlotte Bosworth, director of skills and employment at exam board OCR outlines a five point charter to drive better connectivity between the worlds of education and business.
In a recent report by the IET (Institute of Engineering & Technology) a need for education and businesses to work closer together in order to fill the skills void was forcibly voiced. In particular, the report identified a significant and pressing issue when it comes to meeting the needs and expectations of commerce and this is the alarming fact that in the eyes of the business community many school leavers still lack the sufficient levels of numeracy and literature that are expected in 2014.
I whole heartedly concur with the widespread view that there needs to be better connected thinking between the business and education sectors, with a real focus on how the education system can meet the needs of companies both large and small.
For improvements to be made, I believe there are number of key areas that require a strategic response and these fall into five important categories:
1. SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE - There needs to be greater encouragement for more students to participate in STEM subjects by looking at them from a holistic teaching standpoint and not just isolated subject areas, and to appreciate how a combined approach to learning can dramatically improve performance, attitudes and grades. This is where teachers, careers advisors and parents all play a role in influencing the subject choices young people make. We need to ensure students consider the world around them and how a critical subject area such as engineering is connected to everyday life and the things we all do and use. Indeed, the fact that the UK will require over 230,000 engineering apprentices and technicians in the next ten years and with estimates of a 50% shortfall in both numbers and quality, begins to make this a pressing issue if we are to drive future economic prosperity.
2. GET THE WORD OUT – There needs to be a marked increase in the profile of the numerous employment openings that exist for students from a STEM background and the desire from blue chip employers to fill well rewarded and stimulating career vacancies and then finally provide more engaging topics that are always linked back to industry.
3. FOCUS ON RESULTS – From the education sector's perspective it needs to ensure every young person masters a range of core subjects to an adequate level, including maths and English. These are core because it is only when young people have reached a sufficient standard in them can they make substantive progress in their other studies and wider life.
4. BUILD ON CORE SUBJECTS - Coupled with this are the 'enabling subjects' such as humanities, languages, arts, technical and practically based subjects that expand and enhance the core subjects. The range and the extent of specialisation in their study will vary according to interest and design, particularly from the secondary phase of schooling onwards. But nonetheless these are the subjects that equip a young person to move on, taking a university, apprenticeship or vocational qualification route. Every student will undertake a different mix of these, but all routes should be rigorous and stretching.
5. DELIVERING A 'WHOLE' PERSON - Finally and some argue most importantly, is the behaviours and attitudes a young person must foster. These personal behaviours and attributes – sometimes termed 'character' – play a critical role in determining personal effectiveness and can wholly shape an individual's future, alongside academic or vocational achievements. It should be part of our vision to ensure businesses are supplied with compelling, confident, useful individuals, ready and able to make a telling contribution to the world of work.
OCR recently launched a suite of new Cambridge Technical qualifications for 2015, designed to enhance the engineering and science learning experience. In addition, we're keen to hear from businesses and training providers on the debate about how STEM-based education should be developed, structured and delivered.