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Understanding careers education

Addressing the STEM skills ‘gap’ is among the most pressing of national priorities, not just for economic prosperity but also for social mobility.
JOHN HOLMAN: Well, it leads to better teaching. Good teachers know that the way to get young people engaged in what they’re learning is to give them a reason for learning it. And what better reason is there than that what you’re learning can lead to a rich and rewarding career? When we did our international study for good career guidance, we found that this theme of linking the curriculum to careers is uniform throughout the countries that we visited. A country like Finland, for example, hugely successful educationally. The teachers are highly conscious that they have an opportunity to link the science, the maths that they’re teaching, to the careers that come from it.
And of course, employers are constantly looking for young people with STEM skills. The country needs them. There’s no sector employment that doesn’t need people with skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. So linking the curriculum to STEM helps young people become more employable, and it helps the country to have a successful knowledge economy. From a student perspective, why should we be linking careers and curriculum together? Well, I think this is an important part of raising aspirations and so, improving social mobility. If, through our lessons in STEM, we can show what an enormous range of different careers young people can have if they have STEM qualifications, it’s not just limited to being a science teacher or being a research scientist.
There are so many, as we know, so many possibilities for someone who’s got STEM qualifications. So we can widen horizons, and we can show all the doors that these qualifications can open. And by doing that, we’re breaking down stereotypes, assumptions about what young people might be. And ultimately, we’re improving social mobility.

In this step we briefly look at the wider context, thinking about the reasons for linking curriculum learning and STEM careers together. In the video, Professor Sir John Holman outlines the national rationale and the reasons why it’s important for students to have embedded career learning.

We are living through a period of unprecedented change. Consider how technology has developed in our own lifetime; from sophisticated digital and communications devices to advanced healthcare, our lives are now entwined and dependent on the innovations of the last two decades. Technology is rapidly transforming the way that businesses organise themselves and the products and services they offer.

It is partly due to this pace of change that most UK business leaders in STEM industries report that they struggle to recruit staff with appropriate skills. Independent research has shown that over 73% of businesses have struggled to recruit candidates with the appropriate STEM skills. Addressing the STEM skills ‘gap’ is among the most pressing of national priorities, important not just for economic prosperity but also for social mobility of young people.


We’ve suggested a few reasons why careers learning is so important, but what is a teacher’s role in supporting career education?
Share your thoughts about your role in supporting your students’ career learning below.
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Linking Curriculum Learning to STEM Careers

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