The defence group BAE Systems and the RAF organised a workshop at St Marylebone CE School for girls in London. This is just the first of planned 350 workshops to take place in schools across the England this year. The BAE Systems has been organising similar presentations since the previous eight years and has benefitted around a quarter of a million pupils.
At St Marylebone CE School for girls in London, around 100 girls, aged 11- and 12-years, got an unusual physics lesson in the form of a stage show, which blended smart situation comedy with references to Amy Williams, Olympic skeleton champion, Alton Towers and Laura Hamilton, Dancing on Ice star.
While the stage show was going on, a trio of engineers presented Newton’s third law of motion, Archimedes’s Eureka moment and fluid dynamics in interesting manner.
Afterwards, students were all praise for the workshop. They said that presentation made the lessons fun and cool.
School programmes to ensure pool of talent is not wasted
Nigel Whitehead, UK-chapter boss of BAE, said that such schools programme is essential to make sure that the pool of talent does not get wasted. Though the presentation is available for any school that requests it, but the defence firm puts in greater effort to target under-represented groups, such as girls, Asian backgrounds pupils and those living in unprivileged parts of the country, in engineering workforce.
Whitehead encourages people to dream of becoming an engineer, as, he says, the engineering world is more similar to being a surgeon or a doctor, and not a mechanic.
However, the school project of BAE is not only one of its kinds; there are a number of British businesses more attentive than earlier in tapping the functioning of classrooms.
A sea-change in attitudes of businesses towards education
Neil Carberry, Director for employment and skills, the Confederation for British Industry, says that a sea-change in attitudes of businesses has been noticed in recent past. He said, “The great myth of the old education debate was that schools were only interested in education for education’s sake and businesses were only thinking about young people as the future labour force. There is almost a scales dropping from the eyes on both sides of the table. Business and education are looking for the same thing: a young person who can navigate their way in the 21st century.”
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has highlighted the early-years education in schools in a recent study. It demanded better access to childcare, obvious goals on numeracy and literacy, and asked policymakers and schools not to allow the pupils on the verge of primary school to drift. It notes, “The cult of relativism that says it is OK for a certain percentage of young people to fail”.
Need for high-skilled labour force to be competitive in 21st century
According to CBI report, if Britain is able to match the Finland’s educational performance, it could add £8 trillion to its economy over the lifetime of today’s children. It means that Britain could see 1% extra GDP growth a year. But, the support for education is not all about money and planning. Carberry says, “The level of education is correlated with the ability to innovate, and we have to be high-skill to be competitive in the 21st century. And, to be honest, we are interested in making sure that we are ensuring the mobility of people and a meritocracy.”
In spite of praising the education system of Scandinavia, Germany and Korea, Carberry does not think that more government spending is the only answer, though CBI endorses the targeted extension of the early year’s education of pupil premium that benefits the underprivileged schoolchildren by allocation of extra funds.
Social mobility is a worrying factor
Adrian Joseph, Google executive, says that social mobility is a worrying factor, as talents go wasted while employers are unable to recruit properly skilled workforce. He says, “Some of the scary numbers are that 27% of employers have left entry-level jobs unfilled because they just can’t find the right people. But at the same time we have a crisis in youth unemployment in the UK and across Europe. Businesses have an obligation to be working much more closely with schools and with government to make a difference. It is actually quite short-sighted to pull back on diversity and diversity-based recruitment in times like this.”
Today, there is a need to have greater public debate over the companies’ role in schools. Future employers should be considered as key partners of schools, but it is concerning if they start drawing lesson materials.