Most teachers in England think that the careers support offered by their schools is inadequate, and would like to see business playing a bigger role in that area. A survey by The Varkey Foundation, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Times Educational Supplement TES showed that nine in 10 teachers in the UK (87% of the 1100 surveyed) believed that business could help schools by providing mentorships and work placements, for example.
Interestingly, there seems to be a perception among teachers that the best opportunities for their pupils actually lie in the tech sector. When asked which of the top 20 most valuable brands in 2016 they would most like to engage with in their school, their top choices were Apple, Google and Microsoft, with traditional household names like Toyota and BMW coming much lower on the list despite talk of a "modern apprenticeships revival".
Vikas Pota, Chief Executive of the Varkey Foundation, said the survey showed that tech companies were teacher's dream partners: "It is clear that teachers overwhelmingly prefer the involvement of those types of companies to more traditional manufacturing industries," he pointed out.
The quality of careers advice in schools is a contentious issue following the publication of a report by the Commons sub-committee on Education, Skills and the Economy, which says the skills shortage in England is being exacerbated by inadequate support in this area. This follows an equally damning report by the Education Committee last year that raised concerns about issues such as the fact that in some schools career guidance was being delegated to receptionists.
Stephen Tetlow, Chief Executive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, agreed that careers advice in secondary schools in England just isn't good enough at the moment. "We are denying a generation the opportunity to make the right life choices, as good information on jobs and opportunities in our schools is the engine of social mobility."
Poor careers advice has in fact been shown to have a negative impact on social mobility, since pupils who are the first in their family to go to University may not actually know what it takes to be a surgeon, a barrister or a scientist. Without solid advice, they might not understand that dropping a language at sixteen, or discontinuing STEM subjects, could severely limit their options further down the track. This is where teachers believe that businesses can have a positive impact, by, for example, providing inspirational speakers that can come to schools and share their experience and advice with students on how they can reach those career aspirations.
"With serious skills shortages in the UK, especially in science, engineering and technology, it's absolutely vital that young people understand the many highly rewarding paths they can choose where they can best make a contribution to our nation," says Stephen Tetlow
"Not only can technology play a huge role in improving the quality of education, but it is needed in the modern global economy, which demands that young people are technologically savvy. A greater involvement by tech companies in schools can help improve the tech skills of young people. This, in turn, could help reduce the gap between the number of technology jobs and the people qualified to fill them," added Vikas Pota.
"Schools are struggling with getting careers advice right," agreed Ann Mroz, Editor of the Times Educational Supplement. She says that shrinking budgets often mean that schools find themselves under increasing pressure, and careers advice provision is one of the areas that can suffer as a consequence of this. She concludes that it is a positive factor that teachers seem happy to work with businesses in addressing this issue, but stresses that it's important for those businesses to engage in a dialogue with schools about their specific needs before simply rushing in to help.