A new report calls on government to invest £40 million in improving access to careers provision for students in schools and colleges in England to enable more young people to understand the opportunities available in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers and so support the drive to build back better and ’level up’ across the UK in a post-Covid world.
‘Securing the future’, a joint report by EngineeringUK and 7 engineering and careers organisations , published on 9 June 2021 argues that while STEM careers provision is essential to inform and inspire young people irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background or other characteristics about careers in STEM, Covid-19 has made delivering that careers provision in schools and colleges more difficult. Just over three quarters (76%) of the careers leaders and STEM teachers surveyed for the report say that it has become more difficult to engage with employers since the start of the pandemic, with many saying that careers activities have been put on hold because of time pressures. The report also found that the digital divide affects access to STEM careers activities in schools and colleges in England, particularly in poorer areas. 68% of schools with above average Free School Meal eligibility (FSM) said a lack of access to technology and internet was a barrier, compared to 36% of schools with below average FSM.
The report recommends providing schools with more funding, estimated at around £40 million annually, to improve their careers provision. It suggests the new funding be used to better resource secondary schools and colleges in England to support all young people with their careers choices, with additional funds for STEM careers provision, focused on increasing diversity in the sector. Funding is also recommended for a dedicated STEM leader in each careers hub, whose role it would be to build schools’ STEM careers capacity by supporting and facilitating joint careers activities with employers, including work experience.
The findings also identified issues related to equality and diversity more generally that were barriers to reaching young people. These include:
- lack of role models – 46% of survey respondents said this was a barrier to accessing careers provision for girls, with 38% saying the same about pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds and 33% about pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds
- limited understanding of what STEM careers could entail
- lack of confidence
- lack of awareness of available STEM careers provision
Dr Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK, said: “The youth unemployment figures  show young people have been hit hardest by the pandemic, which has exacerbated existing issues, such as the digital divide, further reducing opportunities for young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. At the same time, we know that the STEM sector will offer hundreds of thousands of valuable opportunities for good quality, secure employment. With the government focus on developing the UK as a leader in science and net-zero and the policy of ‘building back better’, together with the levelling up agenda, careers in STEM and engineering will be a reliable choice.
Careers engagement motivates young people to achieve and enables them to know where future opportunities will be. Young people are anxious about their future and ‘Securing the Future’ shows that good careers provision is more important than ever. We’re urging the government to do everything possible to ensure that all young people know about the careers opportunities available in the STEM sector now and into the future.
This matters for the sector, which needs to scale up its efforts to recruit people from non-traditional backgrounds, and to improve the life chances of young people themselves.”
Notes to Editors
Media Contact: Neha Okhandiar (NOkhandiar@engineeringuk.com / 07566 799863)
EngineeringUK is a not-for-organisation that works in partnership with the engineering community to inspire tomorrow’s engineers. We lead the engagement programmes: The Big Bang, Robotics Challenge and Energy Quest and help schools bring STEM to life through real-world engineering via Neon. We bring engineering careers inspiration and resources together through Tomorrow’s Engineers and manage The Code, which drives change at scale to increase the number and diversity of young people choosing academic and vocational pathways into engineering. We base everything we do on evidence and share our insight widely. www.engineeringuk.com
 The series of recommendations are based on a research survey conducted with 200 careers leaders and STEM teachers in secondary schools. The report is co-authored with:
- Careers England
- Campaign for Science and Engineering
- Careers Development Institute
- Institution of Civil Engineers
- The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)
- Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)
- Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng)
 Youth Employment Statistics https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn05871/