Are schools failing to prepare students for work?

A recent report suggested that nearly half of young people working in STEM roles felt that the subjects they studied at school are effectively useless in the world of work.

The same report said that young people didn’t believe that teachers had a sufficient understanding of the labour market.

Similarly, the report casts doubt over the educations system’s ability to understand what employers need.

With Brexit looming large on the horizon we need to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of the IT skills pipeline.

Do you believe schools are doing a good job? Should industry do more to help? How can we ensure that UK IT flourishes as we withdraw from Europe and, potentially, from its skills market?

Read report summary here

Posted by Olivia Tan on 10th Mar 2017
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Comments (5)

Erika Sukevic

14 November 2017

I recently graduated and must say I do almost nothing of what I was told at school/university. I went to school in Lithuania where every student must attend all standard and not standard classes, then we had test for at least once a weer for each model (11 ish in total), learn everything upside down within weeks time... We almost never did repeat anything so once you passed the test/exam/coursework you moved to next topic within a subject and nicely forget everything. Do I remember at least half of it? No. These information is good for global understanding, to build a ground for future learning but it definitely not needed in every day life unless you are a teacher or lecturer (or to help your children in a future to pass these models if they ask for help!).

Thomas Samuel Kempson

29 September 2017

I am a 21yo and it hasn't been that long ago since leaving secondary school myself. However, spending 5 years at secondary school I must say has been the longest and heart-breaking thing I have done. Every day I would learn the same thing again, again and again, and when new term started we'd "recap" what we learned last year. It's not schools failing the education of children it's the teaching itself. Personally, I feel the teaching should re-modified and changed so it's up to date with latest affairs and technologies. In addition, I feel teaching plans should be scrapped and instead be replaced with on the spot because let's face it that's what the real world of work is like. One day you may go in to work and the unexpected may happen.

Dave Shortstriders Donaghy

12 April 2017

I'm not in a position to properly judge the methodology of that report, but I have some questions on it, if anyone here is in a better position to address then:

All points relate to the Methodology section on page 16.

  1. " This included analysis of the STEM labour market using Emsi’s proprietary data ..." How was this data gathered? What is it? How can we judge the methodology of the research contributing to this report without seeing the methodology for the contributory data gathered elsewhere?

  2. "STEM occupations were classified using the scheme developed by UKCES, with one change: the job family ‘IT professionals’ was divided into ‘IT managers’ and ‘IT professionals’." Why was this done?

  3. "Those industries with more than 25 per cent of their workforce employed in STEM roles were classified ‘STEM industries’ and used in the analysis." Is that a standard definition? could it reasonably used to compare against "STEM industries" referred to in other studies?

  4. "The survey of individuals working in STEM related roles was conducted by OnePoll for Baker Dearing Educational Trust between 25 August and 2 September 2016 using a panel of 1,000 English adults aged 20 to 35 years and currently working in an identified STEM industry."

4.1 Why use only English adults? I'm presuming this means adults working in England, rather than English by birth, but even so, at least one contributory report (namely UKCES (2015), ref 23 in this) seems to talk of the UK, rather than England.

4.2 Why "working in an identified STEM industry", rather than, for example, "having a STEM occupation"?

  1. "Questions covered perceptions of school experience, favourite subjects, subject career value, preparedness for work and job application experience ..." This all feels quite subjective.
Overall, I haven't yet found enough detail in the methodology to be able to rely on this report at all - have I missed something?

Mario John Carlo Brown

23 March 2017

This report from Kenneth Baker's outfit smacks of commercial and political advertising for Baker's pet project 'University' Technical College. I remember Baker as a member of Thatcher's cabinet announcing on the BBC that all children should be compulsorily taught that "only free enterprise generates wealth". The summary highlights the assertion "Every attempt to improve technical and hands-on vocational learning since 1870 has failed". Sorry that is just not true. Bismark introduced it in the 1880's and it has stood Germany in good stead in good times and bad. When I was at school in the 50s and 60s, the only useful thing I learned was mental arithmetic and Latin. And our teachers had no understanding of labour markets, there was not even a careers advisor. Not much has changed, it seems. In his three years as Secretary of State for Education for Mrs Thatcher he introduced "Baker Days" (taking teachers away from teaching) and the National Curriculum thereby making sure every child had little chance of vocational training. He did nothing to promote vocational training for manufacturing, for which Thatcher ensured a rapid decline. Is the purpose of education to produce well informed and useful citizens, able to contribute to society or just' factory fodder' as was the intention ofthe abandoned idea of "technical schools" in the 1944 Butler Education Act? What I learned at school & medical school rapidly became obsolete (estimated half life of the knowlege was 7 years), and society is changing even faster nowadays. If you can predict the future of jobs and industry for the next 30 years and can teach for it, good go ahead, but don't expect industry, with both eyes firmly on the end of year balance sheet and using methods and machines designed years ago, to help to train for the future. Yes we need a new approach to STEM in schools, but I don't believe that more of Baker's " Baker Days" and Thatcherite mantra will improve matters one iota.

Russell Macleod Middleton

22 March 2017

Back in the decade of the "two-thousands" I was a mature student at Stirling University studying Computing. Myself and other mature students asked the then head of the Computing Department if it would be possible to establish contact with commercial IT firms. His reply was if that was what we were looking for we should have gone to college. We felt a little disappointed.