'Education-business partnership work brings tangible benefits, not just to schools and colleges but also to the businesses involved'
[CBI education and skills survey 2010]
Society appreciates that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills are vital to building economic prosperity for the UK, by enabling innovation and technological advance. For young people, studying these subjects can help them fulfil their potential and open doors to rewarding careers. For employers, STEM skills are crucial in maintaining and developing business, increasing investment and achieving growth.
Employers can help to support teachers and young people in understanding the excitement and potential of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in a variety of ways, including:
- Supporting Continuing Professional Development for teachers and technicians
- Encouraging employees to become STEM Ambassadors
- Supporting STEM enhancement & enrichment activities
- Sponsoring science, technology, engineering and mathematics clubs
- Providing support to schools and colleges for careers activities
- Encouraging employees to become school or college Governors
- Providing workplace visits and work experience opportunities to teachers and young people.
National organisations working to support employer / education links
This section provides contact details as a starting point for any employer, regardless of size, to build their education links.
For further information or discussion please contact Jenifer Burden.
(i) Get involved in professional development for teachers and technicians
In order to provide young people with a contemporary, engaging view of science and engineering, teachers and technicians need to maintain up-to-date subject knowledge and skills.
The National network of Science Learning Centres provides opportunities for teachers, teaching assistants and technicians to engage in continuing professional development (CPD), either through the National Science Learning Centre located on the University of York campus or through one of nine Regional Science Learning Centres across England.
The Science Learning Centres aim to help teachers, schools and colleges continuously improve teaching and learning and to inspire pupils by providing them with a more exciting, intellectually stimulating and relevant science education, which enables them to gain the knowledge and understanding they need - both as the citizens and as the scientists of the future. One way of doing this is to have STEM professionals at the heart of professional development, thus supporting continued knowledge exchange between employers and education.
The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) aims to meet the professional aspirations and needs of all teachers of mathematics and realise the potential of learners through a sustainable national infrastructure for mathematics-specific CPD.
(ii) Encourage staff to become STEM Ambassadors and support STEM Clubs
More than 2,000 employers, large and small, are already working with STEMNET to support the STEM Ambassadors programme. Employees can apply to be STEM Ambassadors free of charge. Once they have been registered, trained and CRB-checked, they become part of a network of more than 24,000 people across the UK, all keen to share their enthusiasm and passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics with young people.
STEM Ambassadors make a significant impact on young people's perceptions of science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects and careers. They have a vital role in widening participation - encouraging young people from all backgrounds to see that "people like me do science and mathematics".
"I really learnt a lot about this type of science career, I did not think science could involve all these things like travelling the world and being in charge of making buildings or stadiums."
[Year 10 student meeting with a STEM Ambassador]
Being a STEM Ambassador has benefits for the employer and employee, as well as the young people, teachers and parents with whom Ambassadors work.
"A rewarding experience. I felt valued by the students and teaching staff. Hopefully I have also helped persuade a few to try a career in science in healthcare!'
[John Allen, Senior Medical Physicist, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle]
Through STEM Ambassadors, employers can also support the STEM Clubs Network - www.stemclubs.net - and a range of STEM Enhancement & Enrichment activities listed in the STEM Directories - www.stemdirectories.org.uk.
(iii) Enable staff to become school or college Governors
Acting as a Governor is a highly rewarding way for individuals, and their employers, to take a strategic role in building success at a school. Employers can enable individuals to make this commitment by providing a small amount of time for staff to undertake Governor duties as part of corporate social responsibility activity.
The School Governors One-Stop Shop (SGOSS) is dedicated to recruiting volunteers to serve on school governing bodies across England. Its services are free to volunteers, employers, schools and Local Authorities.
(iv) Collaborate with employer-led groups to build strategic links with education infrastructure
Business in the Community (BITC) members work together to transform communities by tackling social issues where business can make a real difference. BITC offers guidance for companies who wish to contribute to this effort.
The Education Employer Taskforce can help employers build wider links to education, providing advice and guidance on what can be achieved and how. It also provides networking opportunities between employers so they can learn from each other. The Taskforce has produced an Employers Guide that provides a broad introduction to working with the education sector.
'In terms of money, the investment is tiny... There is certainly a time commitment, but I believe any time spent on getting people with the right skills into the industry is time well spent. The crux of the matter is that we need to form better links with education...'
[Mark Laing, Managing Director, Nairn's Oatcakes]