Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [HL]

Written evidence submitted by EngineeringUK (SPEB06)

Submission to the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill Committee Stage call for evidence

About EngineeringUK

EngineeringUK is a not-for-profit organisation, which works in partnership with the engineering community to inspire tomorrow’s engineers and increase the number and diversity of young people choosing academic and vocational pathways into engineering via programmes designed to excite young people about the variety and opportunity presented by a career in modern engineering. EngineeringUK aims to grow the collective impact of work across the sector to help young people understand what engineering is, how to get into it, and be motivated and able to access the educational and training opportunities on the way.

We also undertake research and work with partners in the engineering sector to influence government thinking in relation to the educational pipeline into engineering, and what systems, structures and funding need to be in place to enable all young people to decide whether a career in engineering is for them.

What we want from the Bill

· EngineeringUK want to ensure that the UK has a skills system that delivers the engineering skills the country needs, both locally and nationally. We see this Bill as an opportunity to achieving that.

· We want to see the Government take steps to growing a careers system that is fit for purpose and supports young people in making the right choices in terms of their pathways into future careers. Central to this is an up-to-date careers strategy that takes account of the changing environment post-Covid and has a focus on net zero. EngineeringUK and partners have been calling for a refreshed careers strategy in the context of this Bill.

· With the focus on net zero and Building Back Better, the UK will need many more engineers to achieve this. It is vital that an understanding of national skills gaps identified as part national strategies is fed into local skills planning via the Local Skills Improvement Plans and helps to inform local and regional skills delivery. EngineeringUK therefore supports the recent changes as outlined in amendment 11 at third reading in the House of Lords

Background and evidence

Careers provision in schools and colleges

1. For the G overnment to succeed in making the UK a global science superpower and succeed in its vision for the UK to become net-zero by 2050 it needs hundreds of thousands of home-grown scientists and engineers to make this a reality . For this to happen, young people need more than good STEM teaching in schools and colleges and ongoing opportunities throughout their lives to improve their skills. They also need good careers provision to ensure that they know about the opportunities available to them and the pathways to get into those careers.  

2. Many pupils currently leave school unaware of the route into engineering. Our research found that 42% of 11 to 19 year olds disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with the statement that they know what to do in order to become an engineer [1] . A lack of understanding of STEM professions among many young people – and their teachers and parents - and a lack of awareness of the pathways that can be taken into STEM careers means that many pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, do not visualise themselves being successful in these roles. EngineeringUK believes it is important that government works to improve access to high quality careers provision to help boost the supply and diversity of young people going into STEM and engineering careers.

3. We believe that giving young people access to effective and impartial careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) as well as STEM employers and inspirational activities can play an important part in increasing the number of young people on pathways into STEM careers. Our research shows that students who had attended any (one or more) STEM careers activity, were 3.5 times more likely than those who hadn’t attended any to know about what people working in engineering did. They were also 3.4 times more likely than those who hadn’t attended a STEM careers activity, to consider a career in engineering [2] .

4. We agree with the report from the APPG on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM [3] , which argues that ‘Wider access to good careers education has the potential to raise aspirations around STEM and reduce inequity.’ We would like to see the 2017 Careers Strategy refreshed as a priority, with a renewed focus on good quality STEM careers support, particularly for those groups who experience barriers in accessing careers advice and guidance. The Government’s Careers Strategy, published in 2017, officially came to an end in 2020, and the ‘Skills for Jobs’ white paper did not clearly set out what would replace it. This has left a strategic blackhole at a time when there are increasing pressures on education settings to ensure that young people leaving school or college are knowledgeable and work ready. While further statutory guidance to schools was published in July 2021, we believe that schools and colleges, and those supporting them to deliver careers provision, need more. Government’s focus on post-pandemic economic recovery, net zero and levelling up needs a refreshed careers strategy to support young people, schools and colleges to understand and benefit from the opportunities provided by green jobs and devolved local skills plans. We believe that this needs to be addressed urgently and that the ambitions of the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, that of a skills revolution, are unlikely to be fully realised without effective careers provision enabling young people in schools or colleges to hear and learn about the jobs of the future.

Ensuring that national and local skills development work in sync

5. The Bill must ensure that there is a robust mechanism for the flow of data between national education and skills policy and nationally identified skills needs, and local skills development plans and vice versa. It is vital that an understanding of the national skills gaps is fed into local skills planning via the Local Skills Improvement Plans and helps to inform local and regional skills delivery. There is otherwise a risk that employer-led skills development at a local level will occur in isolation from national strategies relating to net zero and infrastructure as well as wider national skills needs. EngineeringUK would support clear processes and feedback mechanisms that ensure that there is a good understanding of the skills and training needs and gaps both locally and nationally and a clear two-way communication channel between national and local priorities.

6. In light of the above, EngineeringUK would also welcome a further debate about national workforce planning and the importance of this for delivering on the government’s ambitions. We think that there should be a clear cross-departmental approach between DfE, and other key government departments where skills and employment play a key role in delivery with the view to identify national skills needs, gaps and shortages.

For further information, please contact Head of Policy and Public Affairs at EngineeringUK Beatrice Barleon

November 2021


[2] ibid

[3] APPG on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM, ‘Inquiry on Equity in STEM’, June 2020


Prepared 30th November 2021