Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Schools and Businesses Must Unite for Future; AFTER Taking over as Head of Skills Specialist Semta, Ann Watson Explains How Employers and Educators Are Joining Forces to Improve the Quality of Teaching and Training in Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Subjects - Essential to Engineering and the Future of the UK Economy

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Schools and Businesses Must Unite for Future; AFTER Taking over as Head of Skills Specialist Semta, Ann Watson Explains How Employers and Educators Are Joining Forces to Improve the Quality of Teaching and Training in Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Subjects - Essential to Engineering and the Future of the UK Economy

Article excerpt

Byline: Ann Watson

AS a daughter of the North East, I am both proud of its industrial heritage and excited by what the future holds.

However, there is a real danger the region, and the UK as a whole, could miss out on the opportunities within advanced manufacturing and engineering due to ignorance and a lack of skills.

Semta has long argued that educators and business need to work much closer together to address the skills challenge, both culturally and practically.

Time and again, when talking to bright, talented youngsters, we hear tales of academic snobbery - career advisers actively obstructing them from taking a vocational qualification and a career in industry.

Many are being driven into higher education so schools can simply tick a box to say a pupil has gone to university.

Our research shows only 10% of educators feel they know a lot about apprenticeships despite their growth and the stated aim of all the main political parties to have apprenticeships at the heart of our industrial strategy.

Only 10% of parents rank apprenticeships as their preferred qualification for their children despite the fact it can lead to a career path which can provide them with a lifestyle which is better than many of their peers who go to university.

They continue to learn while they earn, with the potential to gain a degree while working, without being burdened with student debt.

Of course industry needs the best graduates - far too many of those taking STEM subjects are lost to other sectors of the economy - but we cannot allow the poor advice to supress the ambitions of our young people who can't or don't want to go to university.

Our research also shows 8,500 people in the North East's advanced manufacturing and engineering (AME) sector are due to retire by 2017 with a further 15,000 needing to improve their skills.

While the North East has seen a significant increase in the number of apprentices, only 27% of AME companies in the region recruit apprentices - the aim being to get this to 50% by 2016.

We need a huge shift in emphasis to redress the balance and build a proper skills pipeline.

Semta has been commissioned and funded by The Education and Training Foundation to develop and deliver a project to drive up standards in STEM teaching and training across England. …

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