STEM Design Skills in Action

Young people using engineering design skills

Young people using engineering design skills

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A great day at Blue Coat Academy with their Year 9 pupils today. We got them to use design skills to create their own ideas from K’nex kits. They only had half an hour and it was wonderful too see what they came up with.

Employers want more kids to have experience and knowledge of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths so I would suggest they get more involved in school-based projects to give first-hand information and advice to our young people.

There was so much talent on show today that it was inspiring and gave me great hope for the future.


Careers Advice in Schools

A great article today on the BBC News Website about Careers in Schools. Check it out here.

I run a careers Advice programme at Aldridge School in Walsall. My way is to bring in a range of Industry specialists to talk to targeted groups of pupils.

It works very well and I’ve had some great feedback from an independent audit, which gauged young people’s responses and remarks.

Anyone delivering careers without involving the local business community should not be doing the job.

Special School pupils show Business Skills

I ran a Business Skills development Challenge at Castle Special School in Walsall today. These young people have academic difficulties but they can certainly raise their game when it comes to showing social and employability skills.

I have worked with these young people for five years on a regular basis and have seen them develop into fine young people. The school is superb and the teachers are so professional and organised that it’s a pleasure to be there.

The kids came up with a range of ideas (including apps, cars and toys of the future) and then wrote and delivered a presentation on their new product…All in half an hour!

My fear for these young people is that they will not get great qualifications, cannot complete a high standard CV and would interview pretty badly (they are not comfortable with new people). They could hold down a job of some description but will they ever get the chance?

It’s a shame that our ‘system’ does not offer the right after-education support and we allow potential to remain unfulfilled.


Cranfield Business School report on Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships vital to build the workforce of the future

3rd May 2013


Apprenticeships are essential to help build a sustainable workforce and get more people into employment, according to a new report by Cranfield School of Management and learndirect. ‘Nurturing Talent: building the workforce of the future’ outlines how more needs to be done to promote the value of vocational education and the vital role employers should play in this. The report makes a number of recommendations, including: reviewing the school curriculum to include work related learning; ensuring schools provide high quality and impartial information, advice and guidance on careers and further education; taking steps to improve the status of vocational education and training and maximising the use of technology by extending its use beyond teaching and learning.

Despite concerns over skills shortages in the UK, more than two-thirds of UK firms (70%) surveyed for the report have not taken any steps to address potential skills shortages in the labour market forecast in 10-20 years’ time. Apprenticeships can play a huge part in helping to tackle the issue, but only seven per cent of business leaders from companies employing apprentices found it easy to find suitable young people for the roles.  Despite these challenges, the research, commissioned by learndirect, discovered more than a fifth of firms (21%) employ apprentices, of which 32% said the training schemes were an effective way of addressing shortages of technical skills.

Dr Emma Parry, Reader in Human Resource Management at Cranfield School of Management and the report’s author explained the benefits of apprenticeships to companies:  “Apprenticeships are not just about helping employers to access the skills they need to be successful, although they can certainly do this. The evidence suggests the use of apprenticeships can also lead to improved employee morale, commitment and retention, lower recruitment costs and can also allow an organisation to develop a reputation as a good employer.”

The report also highlights young people’s lack of basic skills. Almost a third (30%) of the business leaders surveyed said English literacy and language skills among non-graduates aged under 25 was poor, whilst more than a fifth (21%) said their maths abilities were insufficient for employment. The inability of young people to communicate effectively was also cited by a quarter (25%) of business decision makers, whilst 28% said that the general attitude of young people was an issue.

In order to support the government in its drive to reduce youth unemployment, more than half of the business leaders surveyed (54%) said they needed further support to improve the basic English and maths skills of young people.

The difficulties businesses face in finding appropriately skilled young people could be part of the reason why  11,500 fewer apprenticeship were started between August last year and the beginning of 2013, compared to the same period a year before.

Deborah Rosado, Director of Proposals and Stakeholder Management at learndirect, who launched the report to the HR Development Conference today, said of the findings:  “Like the government, employers recognise when done well, apprenticeships can equip firms with the skills they desperately need. However, if apprenticeships are to help businesses meet the changing needs of the UK economy, which was an important element of the Richard Review, young people should have the basic skills needed for work.”

Despite the difficulties the research highlights, there is overwhelming support for apprenticeships amongst business leaders, 75% of whom agreed with the government’s focus on the schemes.

More than a third of apprentice-employers (34%) agree they could plan to promote their trainees through their organisation, indicating they believe the training schemes are crucial for their talent pipeline, and 32% believe apprenticeships help with employee retention.

Indeed, the survey shows it is not only traditional industries, such as construction, taking advantage of the traineeships but increasingly white collar professions such as the financial sector (23% of which run apprenticeship schemes).


The report comes with four recommendations from Cranfield School of Management and learndirect for businesses and policy makers to help make young people more attractive for employment:

  1. The school curriculum should be reviewed to include work related learning, which will ensure young people are work-ready, leaving the school system with the basic employability skills, behaviours and attitudes needed to thrive in work, including Maths, English and ICT.
  2. There should be a new duty for schools to provide high quality information, advice and guidance on careers and further education that is impartial and includes the full range of options, including apprenticeships and traineeships.
  3. Steps need to be taken to improve the status of Vocational Education and Training (VET), which should include a government-led campaign to promote the value of VET to parents, teachers, children and employers. All of this will require a period of stability in the vocational education sector achieved through cross-party consensus.
  4. Technology should be maximised by extending its use beyond teaching and learning. For example, providing peer-to-peer IT support and mentoring where learners are dispersed. The Ministerial Action Group, set up to look at learning technologies in the further education and skills sector, should identify best practice in the use of technology across industry and make recommendations on how this could be replicated in employment and skills

Careers Advice in Schools


It’s great doing Careers Interviews at Aldridge School. Putting young people on the right path is a great feeling, even if it’s just printing out some qualification or Apprenticeship information they didn’t know.

I also bring local business people in to give careers advice talks direct to pupils who have chosen that career path. At Aldridge School we are a village raising a child.