Vocational careers and the need for a Big Bang in engineering

For some time I’ve been calling for young people pursuing vocational courses to get the same level of support that university applicants enjoy. This is important if we’re to meet the demand for 69,000 advanced apprentices and level 3 vocationally qualified people to fill engineering technician roles by 2020.

At present if you need advice and information about university, UCAS provides a great deal of support – they even have clearing. And university careers service will help you find a job during and after your studies. Contrast this to the vocational path. If you want to take a vocational route, you have to look for courses independently, apply independently and without any careers advice or guidance. Surely some mistake? 

To hear the Deputy Prime Minister announce plans to fix this mess was great. The devil will be in the detail, however. 

The intentions outlined are a move in the right direction, with local authorities responsible for providing online information on college courses, apprenticeships, traineeships and other work-based programmes in their local.  Surely the best, most obvious, solution would be to join up the dots and create a place where all information about vocational and academic courses is in one place, however. This way young people really will have one central port of call for finding out about their options and can make an informed choice about the study best suited to them. 

It was heartening to hear the Deputy PM acknowledge the important contribution employers can make to school careers information and inspiration. In this, the engineering sector is ahead of the game. A great example is the work of The Technician Apprenticeship Consortium, supported by the Association for Consultancy and Engineering, which is working with companies and colleges to recruit and train apprentices through to Eng Tech professional qualification. 

Through our programmes Tomorrow’s Engineers and The Big Bang Fair, EngineeringUK is working with employers and Professional Engineering Institutions to provide schools with inspiring engineering engagement activities, underpinned by robust careers information and resources. Our aim is to reach every young person in the UK with engineering careers messaging.  

The changes outlined in Deputy PM’s recent announcement have the potential to improve careers provision for young people, giving school-leavers the best next-step in life. The UK needs more engineers, and by  getting involved with the engineering community’s collaborative careers programmes, employers and professional bodies will be playing their part in ensuring young people can make informed decisions about engineering careers - and their best route into them.  

If you want to play your part, get in touch. 


Paul Jackson is the chief executive of Engineering UK

For details of the Big Bang Fair click here