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How the UK can engineer better jobs for girls

Posted on March 16, 2013 by Daniel at 3:09 am


In other parts of Europe, employers are working with schools and universities on programmes to attract girls into engineering

Sir, The CBI is right to criticise the quality of careers guidance (“MPs call for culture change to engineer better jobs for girls”, June 20), but this is something that schools and colleges cannot do on their own. It’s a problem for employers and education to solve together, and there is no point in expecting the Government to do it for them.

Germany has a similar problem: there, a strong economy and a shortage of engineers is driving employers to look at the 50 per cent of the population — females — whom they are largely failing to recruit into apprenticeships and graduate courses. Employers are working with schools and universities on programmes to attract girls into engineering, and careers guidance is provided by a partnership of employers, schools and government that gives young people a clear line of sight to work.

Of course, Germany has the treasured “dual system” with more than 100 years of close working between schools and employers, and this is something that we in the UK do not have. Here, employers complain that the Government should do better with the careers advisory service, but the record of governments of all parties is of successive failure. Markets need information to work well, and the labour market is no different in this respect. Employers must take greater responsibility for showing young people the opportunities that await if they take the right qualifications in school, college and university.

This means forming much closer relationships at the local level between businesses, schools and further education colleges, so that colleges understand employers’ needs, and students get to see and hear at first hand what employment involves.

Sir John Holman
University of York

Sir, One of the defining features of prep schools, which we think will help with the issue of getting better jobs for girls, is that we have subject specialist teachers in primary education. Such specialisms include science and technology, in which girls and boys are able to engage equally. We know that these subject-specific lessons break down the walls of gender stereotyping as girls and boys learn to achieve together. Gender should not play any part in decision-making on a child’s education.

David Hanson
Chief Executive, Independent Association of Prep Schools

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