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Building stronger links with teachers will help UK businesses support STEM

17 May 2016

A practical guide launched by the Royal Society and CBI today says that to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in the UK businesses need to collaborate with teachers. With most young people attributing their decision to pursue STEM subjects to an inspirational teacher, working with teachers is the best way to secure the UK’s future STEM workforce, says the guide.

Making education your business: A practical guide to supporting STEM teaching in schools and colleges sets out five simple steps to help businesses structure their work with schools and colleges. This is to ensure that relationships are high impact and beneficial to teachers, pupils and the businesses themselves. The Royal Society and CBI advise that businesses should collaborate with teachers from the outset, making them their number one ‘ally and audience’.

The Royal Society and CBI have worked together to produce the practical guide, which features case studies illustrating how businesses like Dyson and IBM, as well as smaller companies who have successfully worked with schools and colleges.  The new guide builds on recommendations made in the Royal Society 2014 report, Vision for Science and Mathematics Education. The Royal Society strongly advocates better engagement between teachers, industry and academia. Supporting teachers to deliver high quality STEM allows teachers and young people to see where STEM subjects can take them and relate the classroom curriculum to real world, work-related examples.

Businesses already recognise the positive role they can play in education, as demonstrated by CBI and Pearson’s latest Education and Skills Survey which showed that over 70% of companies have links with at least one school or college. However, the widening skills gap and fast-changing economy demonstrate the need for more to be done to support education – particularly in STEM careers where there is an acute workforce shortage.

The benefits of education engagement for businesses can be significant, from staff development and skills building, to community relations and competitive brand positioning. 

Professor Tom McLeish, Chair of the Royal Society’s Education Committee, said:

 “Inspirational teachers clearly have a central role to play in showing young people that studying STEM will help them take advantage of the exciting opportunities our increasingly technologically driven and globally-connected world has to offer.

“By working together with teachers and forging strong links with schools and colleges businesses can support STEM teaching and invest in the UK’s future workforce. Many UK businesses already use their skills and know-how to have a positive impact in schools and colleges across the UK. We hope this practical guide will make it easier for businesses of all sizes to support STEM education in imaginative ways, and design an effective school or college programme which supports teachers and inspires the next generation of STEM professionals.”

Neil Carberry, CBI Director for employment and skills policy, said:

“In a fast-paced and technologically driven world, science and maths skills are increasingly vital for the UK economy to deliver in the years ahead.

“Many industries rely on a supply of science talent, at both graduate and technician level, but shortages are appearing that will hold our economy back.

“Businesses of all sizes are facing a serious challenge to access enough of these skills to compete and grow, so we must equip more young people with the skills that will create flourishing careers and allow them take advantage of future opportunities.

“Many firms work closely with schools in their communities, but more can always be done so we must ensure these interactions not only have a clear goal but also support teachers in inspiring pupils to pursuing these critical subjects.”

The five step guide produced by the Royal Society and CBI says that to ensure high quality, mutually beneficial, education engagement businesses should:

  • Clearly set out aims and motivations
  • Communicate with teachers from target schools from day one
  • Decide which education engagement option to pursue
  • Consider existing schemes and delivery partners
  • Evaluate and improve on their schemes

Publication of this guide coincides with the launch of a new report from Project ENTHUSE, a partnership between businesses, charities and government that provides funding and support for high-quality professional development for teachers and technicians in the STEM subjects. ”Why your business should go back to school: how you can inspire the next STEM generation to help businesses support STEM in schools” offers guidance for businesses that are looking to provide support and inspiration for STEM in schools. The report sets out a number of practical things that businesses can do to make a difference.