Lord Baker: Teach primary school children about the world of work


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The Independent Online

Children at primary should be given a far greater insight into the world of work, former Education Secretary Lord (Kenneth) Baker will say this week.

He will call on schools to develop closer links with local employers so children from an early age get a glimpse of the variety of jobs on offer to them

“We must give children and young people a far better understanding of the world of work, starting at an early age,” he will say as one of the themes of a lecture he is due to deliver on Wednesday.

“This is not about choosing a career by the age of seven, 10 or even 13, though some children of that age already have very clear ambitions,” he will say. “It is about opening their eyes to the many careers that they do not see on TV or in their daily lives.”

Too often options in careers like engineering, crucial to the future of the economy, will be kept from them even in careers talks in secondary school.

Speaking to The Independent, he added: “I think all this start a little more in the primary stage. Young children of the age of four and five are very digitally aware - they’re always playing on their iPads and smartphones, and that’s a wonderful thing that we could build on.

“They could benefit from seeing how this digital technology works in the world of work.”

Lord Baker, who is chairman of the Edge Foundation, dedicated to promoting vocational education and putting it on an equal footing of academic qualifications, will also make a plea for an increase in the Government’s programme for setting up University Technical Colleges. They are designed to combine a top-class vocational education with academic learning.

So far 50 have been approved with 17 already opened. The figure will rise to 30 by the end of this year. A further tranche is also expected to be approved later on in the year.

He will warn, though, that the UK faces a 40,000 shortfall in graduates in the so called STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) every year, thus failing to fill the job vacancies opening up in the nuclear industry, tunnelling, aerospace and vehicle manufacturing.

Lord Baker will also cite figures showing the percentage of graduates who end up in non-graduate jobs like waiting, bar work, retail jobs in supermarkets or catering. They show that 29 per cent of fine arts graduates and 26.7 per cent of media studies were doing more menial jobs six months after graduating in 2012. Even 9.3 per cent of maths graduates fall into this category.

“There are signs that the graduate premium is shrinking over time,” he will add. The average graduate will earn £1,611,551 through their lifetime while the average construction apprentice will net £1,503,726.

Lord Baker will be putting his thoughts down in a pamphlet being published this week, and making a speech at the City and Guilds Fellowship on Wednesday.