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Poll: Do A Levels provide enough preparation for future engineers?

19/08/2019
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More UK students than ever received A levels in STEM subjects this year, but the IET believes that the current curriculum “limits the work-readiness” of future engineers.

We want to know what engineering professionals think. Will a high grade in a STEM subject be enough to prepare students for a future engineering career, or does there need to be a higher emphasis on workplace skills in the current education system?

Maths is one of the most popular A Level options, while other STEM subjects have seen a 26% increase since 2010
(Image via Unsplash/Chris Liverani)

A level results in the UK were released last week and among the cheers and tears was the revelation that STEM subjects such as sciences and maths were rising in popularity, with experts attributing this as a shift towards subjects which have more vocational use.

According to the Department for Education, STEM subjects - including Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Computing and Psychology - accounted for 41.3% of all A level subjects taken, an increase of 26.2% since 2010.

It was also revealed that more girls are now studying science subjects than boys, signaling the potential for a greater gender balance in the future workforce of sector.

Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson addressed this growth, saying: “I’m delighted to see more pupils choosing science-related subjects. This is encouraging particularly as we look to boost science in this country and the skills we’ll need in the future.”

Graph showing the increase in popularity of STEM subjects, as recorded by the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CASE)
(Image via Campaign for Science and Engineering)

However the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is less enthusiastic about the potential for future engineers, questioning the “work-readiness” of the curriculum.

According to their latest survey of engineering and technology employers across the UK, the IET found that 73% have difficulty with job candidates who have academic knowledge but lack workplace skills.

The organisation is calling for “a more balanced combination of education and work experience to give students the right skills and insight into modern engineering careers.”

Despite the growing interest in STEM subjects, it is the IET’s belief that vocational routes into work, such as apprenticeships and T-Levels provide essential benefits for future engineers and should be recognised and encouraged as much as higher education.

They are also calling for a higher emphasis on workplace skills within the school curriculum and more careers guidance for A Level students.

“It’s fantastic to see an increase in young people choosing science-related subjects. However, it is crucial that young people are supported in their studies and without the right balance of education, work experience and careers guidance they might not be aware of the exciting range of engineering roles available to them, which in turn could be compounding the industry’s skills problem and limit their work-readiness,” said Stephanie Baxter, IET Skills and Education Policy Lead.

“The country needs more people studying science and engineering subjects at university and taking up apprenticeships. It’s never too early to start developing the next generation of ‘homegrown’ engineering and technology talent that have the right practical skills for careers in modern engineering and we believe that a combination of education and work experience will help to achieve this.”

Though the A Level statistics show an increasingly great interest in STEM subjects, the engineering skills gap continues to widen.

Have your say

Do you agree with the IET that the curriculum needs reforming with greater focus on work-readiness, or do you think that the increasing interest in STEM subjects signals a bright future for engineering? Have your say by voting in the above poll or leave a comment below.

The results and best comments will be published on Tuesday 27th August, and will be featured in next week's EngineeringPro newsletter.

Tags: Engineering
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Poll: Do A Levels provide enough preparation for future engineers? - Time to read 3 min
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