Plans to change school careers advice could mean fewer young people consider a job in engineering, professional bodies have warned.

The government is creating an all-age independent careers service and, under a new education bill, all schools in England will have to provide careers advice from someone not directly on the school payroll.

A DfE spokesman told The Engineer: ‘The way that careers advice is currently delivered in schools isn’t working – over half of young people say it doesn’t meet their needs. That is why we are changing the system so that all schools have a duty to secure access to independent, impartial careers guidance for their pupils.’

But Education for Engineering (E4E), a group made up of 39 UK engineering organisations led by the Royal Academy of Engineering, said yesterday that this amounted to an end to schools’ duty to provide general careers education.

The group, which is chaired by BAE Systems chairman Dick Olver, said the plans could reduce the number of students aware of the opportunities of an engineering career.

‘Young people often do not make the connection between the mobile phones they use or the computer game consoles they play with on a daily basis and the engineers who created them,’ said Olver.

‘We need to better inform our children and young adults about the value of engineering and the exciting career opportunities an engineering background can afford.

‘Better careers education in schools and an improved professional independent careers service that advises young people of the many routes into engineering will improve this situation.
‘We must make sure that young people are fully informed about the exciting opportunities afforded by a career in engineering so that we will be able to meet the growing needs of our industries as we continue to re-balance the economy,’ Olver added.

E4E has recommended five requirements for improving the way careers education, advice and guidance is delivered and provided in schools and colleges:

  • a statutory entitlement for young people in England to receive lessons in careers education as part of personal, social and health education;
  • the need to demonstrate competence in the teaching of careers education as part of the professional standards for qualified teacher status;
  • the use of real-life science and engineering examples in lessons with careers awareness embedded in the curriculum
  • improved access to local and national labour-market information for schools and colleges, and closer links with local employers; and
  • specialist science, engineering and technology advisors in careers-advisory agencies — echoing the recommendations of the careers-profession taskforce.

Pressure group CaSE (Campaign for Science and Engineering) has also raised several issues with the education bill, including the lack of funding for careers advice.

‘We believe that one of the main reasons for lack of progression from school to science and engineering courses at university is poor careers advice,’ said CaSE director Imran Kahn in a letter to education secretary Michael Gove.

‘Inevitably this afflicts pupils from non-traditional backgrounds in poorer schools the most.

‘We suggest that a school’s performance in careers advice should be an explicit part of Ofsted inspections, as it is one of the most important elements of how schools serve pupils and parents alike.’

Kahn also said that the existing severe shortage of specialist science teachers could be exacerbated by the plans, which don’t include enough safeguards to ensure minimum standards in free schools and academies.