Vocational route to engineering needs support

The Paul Jackson column

The support given by the UCAS system needs to be available for students who choose the vocational path into engineering careers, says the chief executive of EngineeringUK

For some time I’ve been calling for young people pursuing vocational courses to get the same level of support that university applicants enjoy. This is important if we’re to meet the demand for 69,000 advanced apprentices and level 3 vocationally qualified people to fill engineering technician roles by 2020. At present if you need advice and information about university, UCAS provides a great deal of support – they even have clearing. And university careers service will help you find a job during and after your studies. Contrast this to the vocational path. If you want to take a vocational route, you have to look for courses independently, apply independently and without any careers advice or guidance. Surely some mistake?

To hear the Deputy Prime Minister announce plans to fix this mess was great. The devil will be in the detail, however.

The intentions outlined are a move in the right direction, with local authorities responsible for providing online information on college courses, apprenticeships, traineeships and other work-based programmes in their local area.  Surely the best, most obvious, solution would be to join up the dots and create a place where all information about vocational and academic courses is in one place, however. This way young people really will have one central port of call for finding out about their options and can make an informed choice about the study best suited to them.

careers
Catch young engineers early, and you’ll have them for life,

The Government aims to set out what good careers advice should look like “whether that is face-to-face, online or via the phone.” Although I support the intention to give schools more support in delivering careers guidance, access to careers information must be more than a website (our programmes reached three times the number of people who called the National Careers Service last year) in order to really be effective. Our 2014 report The State of Engineering calls for face-to-face advice and guidance as a crucial element of careers provision for young people. 

It was heartening to hear the Deputy PM acknowledge the important contribution employers can make to school careers information and inspiration. In this, the engineering sector is ahead of the game. Through Tomorrow’s Engineers EngineeringUK is working with employers and Professional Engineering Institutions to provide schools with inspiring engineering engagement activities, underpinned by robust careers information and resources. Our aim is to reach every young person in the UK with engineering careers messaging. 

The UK needs more engineers, and by  getting involved with the engineering community’s collaborative careers programmes, employers and professional bodies will be playing their part in ensuring young people can make informed decisions about engineering careers – and their best route into them.  If you want to play your part, get in touch.