School-industry STEM links in the UK: A report commissioned by Futurelab
School-industry STEM links in the UK: A report commissioned by Futurelab

Anthony Mann and Adrian Oldknow

Research Report, March 2012

The purpose of this brief report is to provide an critical overview of the character and effectiveness of employer engagement in UK education (relevant to young people within the education system aged 5 to 19) related specifically to participation, achievement and progression in subjects of study and careers related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Employer engagement is understood to be the range of activities which bring employers/employee volunteers into contact with learners to enrich learning and support positive progression. It would include, notably, provision of short (one or two week) or extended periods of work experience, careers advice, workplace visits and curriculum support/enrichment. Within the UK, a number of employers do support activities aimed at enhancing teacher professionalism, but they not are considered within this short report.

Pupil-focused employer engagement represents a long standing element of UK strategies to increase learner participation and achievement in STEM subjects so increasing the flow of young adults into higher education or directly into the STEM workforce. Over recent years, the UK government, with support from many STEM companies, through the guiding framework of the Strategic and Innovation Investment Framework (H M Treasury, 2004) covering the period from 2004 to 2014 sought to address these factors in increasing the flow of young people with STEM qualifications at all levels into the labour market.The 2010 review by the UK National Audit Office (NAO, 2010) reviewed government and non-state related strategies to increase the volume and achievement levels of STEM-qualified young people. The review highlighted five critical success factors, of which the first (and to some extent fourth below) is especially relevant to employer engagement:

  • Careers information and guidance
  • Quality and quantity of school science facilities
  • Quality and quantity of science teachers
  • Image and interest in STEM subjects (pupil perceptions of interest and enjoyability)
  • Availability of separate science subjects (Biology, Physics, Chemistry) at GCSE level (national qualification for learners aged 14 to 16)

This report addresses:

  • The range and volume of engagement activities
  • The character of delivery
  • The impact of engagement activities
  • School perspectives on outcomes
  • Employer motivations and benefits
  • Obstacles to the design, organisation and implementation of effective practice.

Further Information:
Format: PDF, 32pp

How to cite this publication:

Mann, A. and Oldknow, A. (2012). School-industry STEM links in the UK: a report commissioned by Futurelab. Bristol: Futurelab.