Teachers told: Get Out!

A British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) project has concluded that teachers should get out of the classroom and spend more time with businesses to support getting girls into STEM careers.

The BCC School & Business Partnership pilot, a collaboration between the Government Equalities Office and Chambers of Commerce, launched in May 2014, engaged 1,500 female students and brought together 38 businesses and 37 schools to promote STEM subjects and careers to 13-15 year old girl.

STEM skills shortages (science, technology, engineering and maths) are highly prevalent in the UK, with an annual shortfall of around 20,000* graduates. Women represent only 13%** of the STEM workforce, leaving an untapped pool of talent that could help to address shortages.

The initiative, delivered by Chambers in Plymouth, Hertfordshire, North East, Staffordshire and St Helens, sought to raise young women’s aspirations in STEM through interactions with local businesses.

BCC and government will publish a full report in the autumn on the project, which will be available to schools across the country.  Recommendations include:

  1. Put teachers into a business environment: Schools should cater for teachers and careers advisers to spend time out of the classroom at training, mentoring and business networking to improve understanding of labour markets and the careers information passed to students.
  2. Allow businesses to be involved in lesson plans:  This can help to improve the focus in schools on equipping young people with skills and knowledge about labour markets.
  3. Promote direct engagement between business leaders and pupils: Help young people prepare for work by enhancing skills and knowledge through business visits and setting up direct engagement between businesses and pupils. Hearing directly from business, through visits, talks and presentations, is the best way of inspiring and motivating pupils.

Nora Senior, President of the British Chambers of Commerce, commented:

“The results of the pilot scheme were encouraging. Over the course of the pilot we engaged with almost 1,500 female students, the vast majority of whom would now consider a career in science, technology, engineering and maths. It wasn’t just the girls that benefited. Businesses said the programme supported staff development and helped put them in touch with potential future employees. Schools said businesses added value to their lessons, helped motivate their students and helped their careers advisors to better present the range of options open to pupils.

“The Chambers of Commerce network in the UK has over 2,500 education and training providers in its membership and is working to bridge the gap between the worlds of education and business, to tackle the stubborn youth unemployment rate and ensure businesses have the skills they need.

“We hope that our ground-breaking School and Business Partnership programme opens up new horizons for girls thinking about their future careers and ensures businesses have access to all available talent, not just those with a ‘y’ chromosome.”

Bradford Chamber’s President Andy Caton said: “Our E3 project, aimed at improving connections between businesses and schools, has previously called for the BCC recommendations above, and has been running for several years now.   Thanks to my predecessor Paul Mackie, this local project is already flagging up many of the points emerging from the national pilot.  Ahead of the game?  It would be immodest to make such a claim – we were simply responding to a local need flagged up by our members.”

*Royal Society of Engineers, 2012

**WISE, 2012