Schools Struggle To Prepare Students For Technical Careers

Posted on 28 February 2017 in News, UTC Sheffield City Centre, UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park

Schools Struggle To Prepare Students For Technical Careers

A new report released today – February 28th 2017 – by the charity that promotes University Technical Colleges, including UTC Sheffield, reveals that nearly half (45%) of 20-35 year olds working in STEM related roles (science, technology, engineering and maths) believe the subjects they studied at school are useless in the world of work.

A greater number (61%) thought that learning technical skills would have been more useful than studying traditional academic subjects. The survey of 1,000 young STEM workers was commissioned by Baker Dearing Educational Trust.

It found that three out of five (60%) of those surveyed didn’t believe teachers had a sufficient understanding of the labour market, and a similar number (63%) felt that schools didn’t understand the skills employers needed.

Nick Crew, Executive Principal, UTC Sheffield, said: “The education system has been driven with a focus on academic qualifications without equal value being placed on the essential skills that employers desire. Successful UTCs work closely with employers and universities to ensure the curriculum is enriched with high quality technical and employability skill focused challenges. Employer feedback and the destination evidence of UTC students clearly demonstrate the success of preparing them for future employment.”

Three out of five of those surveyed (63%) felt employers didn’t have enough say in what schools teach and over half of respondents (55%) also admitted that they didn’t understand how the subjects they learnt at school could be used in the world of work.

Lord Baker, Chairman, Baker Dearing Educational Trust says: “As we head towards Brexit the challenge for our education system is to ensure we equip students with the skills they need to forge successful careers in key areas like science, engineering and computing which our economy increasingly demands. This report shows that the current education system fails to provide these young people with opportunities to develop the technical skills they need to get the jobs they want.

“Every attempt to improve technical and hands-on vocational learning since 1870 has failed – most killed by snobbery.  UTCs are part of a small minority of schools which are attempting to meet the skills demands of industry and give students a well-rounded education to help them meet their full potential.  UTCs exist because students want them, employers like them and the economy needs them.”

Of the students who finished their studies at UTC Sheffield in 2016, 45% have gone on to university including Russell Group institutions, when the national average for schools is 38%. And 28% have gone on to apprenticeships when the national average for schools is 7%. All 100% of UTC leavers in 2016 progressed to a positive destination including university, apprenticeships, employment or further training. None are classed as NEETs

Recent research by OECD suggests more than a quarter of pupils (28%) in England hope to be working in a science-related career by the time they are 30 years old. However, the findings in this report suggest there is a big disconnect between what young people are learning in schools and what employers demand of them in the workplace.

Other findings:

  • Computer science, maths and English were by far the most popular subjects and 70% felt this was because they had relevance to the real world.
  • Half (53%) of respondents thought employers preferred an academic rather than a technical education.
  • More than half (59%) of respondents reported that they received a poor standard of careers advice.
  • The experiences of the youngest STEM workers that were surveyed suggests that winning the first STEM job is much more challenging now than before.
  • Half of the STEM workers surveyed aged between 32 and 35 secured their first job within five job applications but, amongst those aged between 20 and 22, just 31 per cent managed this.

About UTC Sheffield

  • UTCs are state funded specialist technical schools for 14 to 19-year-olds where employers help to design and deliver the curriculum, training the next generation of Britain’s creatives, scientists, engineers and technicians.
  • UTC Sheffield City Centre campus, on Matilda Street, is Yorkshire’s first UTC and is Ofsted graded ‘good’. It opened in September 2013. Visit or call 0114 2603970. Follow us on Twitter @UTCSheffield and on Facebook.
  • UTC Sheffield City Centre campus specialises in advanced engineering and manufacturing, and creative and digital. Students can join the UTC in Year 10 at the age of 14 or in Year 12 at the age of 16, and complete GCSEs and A Levels as well as a technical qualification in either advanced engineering and manufacturing or creative and digital.
  • A second £10 million UTC opened in September 2016 on the Olympic Legacy Park. UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park campus on Old Hall Road, specialises in computing, health sciences and sport science.
  • Sheffield Hallam University, The Sheffield College and Sheffield Chamber of Commerce sponsor UTC Sheffield. More than 50 employers are supporting both UTC Sheffield campuses overall. At UTC Sheffield City Centre campus, the employer supporters include Can Studios, Festo, Newburgh Engineering, Rolls-Royce, Performance Engineered Solutions, Roll-Royce, Siemens Plc, Sumo Digital and Warp.

About Baker Dearing Educational Trust

  • Baker Dearing Educational Trust (Baker Dearing) was founded by Lord Baker and Lord Dearing to promote the concept of University Technical Colleges (UTCs). Baker Dearing sits at the centre of the UTC network and promotes and supports new and existing UTCs.
  • Baker Dearing is funded by a number of major sponsors: the Edge Foundation, the Department for Education, Garfield Weston Foundation, Peter Cundill Foundation and Gatsby Charitable Foundation.
  • Research for the report took a mixed method approach. The research company Emsi undertook the desk research. This included analysis of the STEM labour market using Emsi’s proprietary data derived from nine different government sources to provide robust, granular intelligence on occupations and industries, with projections to 2022. Additional data on skills shortage vacancy rates was taken from the Employer Skills Survey 2015.
  • The survey of work and education experiences was conducted by OnePoll for Baker Dearing Educational Trust between 25 August and 2 September 2016 using a panel of 1,000 English adults aged 20 to 35 years and currently working in an identified STEM industry. Questions covered perceptions of school experience, favourite subjects, subject career value, preparedness for work and job application experience. Baker Dearing Educational Trust conducted additional in-depth interviews with STEM employers and recent school leavers working in STEM with discussion centred on the survey findings.