Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 407-419)




  407. Welcome and thank you very much for coming. We are looking forward to this final session where we are looking at you as people who are concerned about employing people with science understanding, or not science understanding, in your different industries. Can I start off by asking you what are you looking for when these young scientists come out of schools? What kinds of skills are you looking for or what kind of knowledge are you looking for, or both? Who would like to start? Shall I pick one of you? Mr Hanslip?
  (Mr Hanslip) Fine, I will kick off if you like. I think we are looking for people who have got what I would call generic skills and specialist skills. The generic skills which are true not just to science students but to all young people are things like general literacy, which we have heard a bit about this afternoon, computer skills, interpretational skills, the ability to take a piece of information and interpret it, mathematics and numeracy. They do not have to be maths experts but they do have to be basically numerate. Communication and oral skills and I would say inter-personal, team working skills, the ability to work in teams. They are generic skills and that is true of almost any discipline, I think.

  408. How do you select that? They come in front of you, do you just look at the CV and that is enough or do you put them through some dreadful tests?
  (Mr Hanslip) It depends. You said school leavers. We take people obviously at various levels and we expect people to have various levels of expertise and experience. If you are taking school leavers you would tend to put them in some sort of group exercise.

  409. Just give me an example. I come to you as a school leaver, what would you do? I am scared out of my wits, here you are, a captain of industry, a millionaire perhaps.
  (Mr Hanslip) Do you want to pick that one up? Do you do a lot with assessment of school children?
  (Ms Garson) Yes, we do. We do recruit people at post-GCSE and we also recruit people at post-A level. It depends on the particular site that we are bringing them into but certainly when people are coming into us at age 16, which is really in the Modern Apprenticeship Scheme, we do look for the sorts of skills that you were mentioning but we also look for basic scientific knowledge if they are going into that particular area. What I should say is that scheme at certain sites encompasses a wide range of areas, so we would be looking for scientific literacy in some areas as well as other skills.

  410. How do you test that? How do you interview for it?
  (Ms Garson) I think with young people at that particular age it is often their first interview outside of the school situation.

  411. Exactly.
  (Ms Garson) I should say that we do do a lot of help in local schools to try and help prepare for interviews but largely we would be relying on their basic qualifications plus a few gentle questions.

  412. So in AstraZeneca how many do you take and how many do you reject roughly?
  (Ms Garson) I could not give you those figures but I would be very happy to follow that up. At post-16 or post-18?

  413. Post-16 and post-18.
  (Ms Garson) Sure.

  414. If the other companies could give us that too, please, that would be very helpful.
  (Ms Tyson) I have got some data on that. Last year we took around 80 post-16 on to Modern Apprentices, a little bit lower for this year, more like 65. We put them through a serious of aptitude tests. There is a numerical one, a verbal reasoning one, a technical comprehension one and a mechanical comprehension one. We also ask them to do a physical dexterity test where they are shown an assembly of plates, bolts, washers, nuts and they have to build one like it within a fixed time.

  415. Like a kind of Bruce Forsyth show, is it?
  (Ms Tyson) Almost, yes. Then they have an interview. The sorts of things you would explore at interview are their technology project and you are looking for do they understand what they are letting themselves in for. Modern Apprenticeship is very demanding, very rigorous for young people at that age, the requirements of doing the college part, the further education part, keeping up the logbook and getting through to their NVQs.

  416. How long does this take them then? Is it a three day thing?
  (Ms Tyson) The assessment process?

  417. Do you test them for three days or one day or what?
  (Ms Tyson) The aptitude tests take a couple of hours and we tend to bring them in after school for that and then they will get called back separately for an interview.

  418. So for 18 places, how many do you have to go through.
  (Ms Tyson) Eighty.

  419. Eighty places, my goodness, sorry. How many apply?
  (Ms Tyson) The applications last year were about 1,100. This year it has gone down to 600, so there has been quite a drop in applications this time.


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