From education to employment

‘Covid Effect’ on attitudes towards undergraduate study reveals new research from NMITE

Research* commissioned by new higher education provider @NMITE_ac (New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering) reveals a marked change in attitudes towards higher education amongst 16 to 18-year-olds and parents of the same age group as a result of the continuing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.  At the same time NMITE asked employers about the skills they value today. 

Key findings: 

  • When asked about their attitudes towards higher education in light of the Covid-19 pandemic almost a third (31%) of 16 to 18-year-olds surveyed say it’s made them more likely to study at higher education level  
  • Just 17% said it has made them less likely to go on to further study 
  • NMITE’s industrial partners reveals that employers value highly creative problem solving (85%), closely followed by real-world experience (81%) and initiative (81%) when looking at potential recruits 

Matching employers’ needs 

Parents of 16 to 18-year olds surveyed thought the most sought-after skill was creative problem solving (59%) compared to 48% for 16 to 18-year-olds (48%), closely followed by communication, resilience, critical thinking and emotional intelligence.

Interestingly, almost half (47%) of 16 to 18-year-olds consider real world experience as important to employers, rated at 81% by NMITE partners versus just 38% of parents. In terms of desirable skills, just 15% of 16 to 18-year-olds surveyed and 16% of parents believe that examination performance and essay writing ability are desirable skills for future employers.  This seems to be reflected in the findings of NMITE partners who rate creative problem solving, real-world experience and initiative as their top three requirements when considering potential recruits. 

Interest in higher education 

Of those 16 to 18-year-olds surveyed who are more likely to want to pursue higher education as a result of the pandemic, almost half (48%) report that this is because the pandemic has made them feel less sure about their future and 44% say they want to make more contribution to society.  

In line with this ‘Covid Effect’, it seems that fear is a driving factor for parents of students aged 16 to 18 years. Over a third (35%) of those surveyed say the pandemic has made them more worried about their child’s future and 24% say they have encouraged their child to consider a more practical course of undergraduate study.   

Future Skills  

With UCAS predicting that the increase in applications and offers for undergraduate study this year will see a record number of students commencing higher education in the autumn, NMITE’s research also looked at expectations for the next step, entering the world of work:  

  • When making choices for higher education, for 16 to 18-year-olds surveyed the subjects available to study (52%) and location (40%) are the most important factors  
  • Conversely parents surveyed consider career prospects on graduation (62%) followed by subjects available to study (59%) most important 
  • When it comes to the reality of a career, parents surveyed think that job satisfaction is most important (70%) versus less than half (45%) of 16 to 18-year-olds. 16 to 18-year olds feel that it is most important to have a good work life balance (51%)   

NMITE’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon comments on the findings:

“This new research demonstrates that attitudes have changed with a clear increase in demand for undergraduate study. As UCAS, the university admissions administrator, has confirmed, there have been more applications than in previous years accompanied by a rise in offers from universities.”  She continues “As a new higher education provider with a radical outlook and approach geared around learning by doing and solving real world problems, it’s encouraging to see that young people can see the benefit of higher education for their own futures and that they’re wanting to make more contribution to society after everything we’ve all lived through over the past 18 months.” 

 Meeting the world’s future challenges  

Perhaps not surprisingly given the Covid pandemic, medical careers were cited as the most future-proof of careers (24% by parents surveyed and 17% by 16 to 18-year-olds). Yet, there was also a certain level of belief that no career can be truly future proof by 16% of parents surveyed and 10% of 16 to 18-year-olds 

Interestingly, even post-Covid pandemic, 17% of 16 to 18-year-olds value the chance to work on tackling some of the world’s biggest problems, such as climate change, compared to just 9% of parents and a quarter (25% of 16 to 18-year-olds and 18% of parents) want a career that enables them to help others 

More than half of both groups (58% of parents surveyed and 56% of 16 to 18-year olds) do not know someone who is an engineer.

Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, President & Chief Executive of NMITE comments on the research findings:

“What the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us is that we need more work-ready engineers to tackle global challenges. At NMITE, it’s our mission to play an integral role in educating the engineers of the future to be equipped to tackle these challenges. Yet, the profile of engineering needs to change, it’s more important than ever that young people are exposed to and see what differences the profession can make to everyone’s daily lives. We know that young people

“can only be what they can see”, so we need more engineers in mainstream media too.” 

Opening to its Pioneer Cohort on 21st September 2021, NMITE is an innovative higher education provider based in Hereford. NMITE exists to address the UK’s shortage of work-ready graduate engineers and will focus on an integrated engineering programme to train and nurture learners ready to tackle global challenges – such as sustainable food production, access to safe water, and clean energy – which do not fall neatly into traditional mechanical, electrical or materials engineering boxes.  

NMITE believes that engineering is an exciting and varied career path, its students will learn what an engineer does and how she or he can make life better, and plans to develop graduates who will make a positive impact on quality of life, the environment and industry. Engineers-in-training will experience NMITE’s “learning by doing” with regular real-life projects and no lectures or traditional exams, and unlike other engineering institutions they will not be required to have a Maths or Physics A-level as these subjects will be taught within the curriculum.  

* Research was commissioned by NMITE and conducted by Censuswide in June 2021 among 1,000 16 to 18-year olds and 1,000 parents of 16 to 18-year-olds. 

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