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Parliament celebrates 'undervalued' professionals

Parliament celebrates 'undervalued' professionals

Policy Connect

3 min read Partner content

A new report, launched in parliament, has described technicians as the "unsung heroes" of some of the UK's leading industries.

Speaking at a parliamentary reception to celebrate the launch of a Skills Commission report, Baroness Sharp of Guildford paid tribute to the country's technicians and argued that their economic and social value had been ignored.

She said: "For too long they have been undervalued, undernourished and relegated to an occupational division considered less important than their professional counterparts.

"In order for the economy to become more production and export focused, and more innovative and sustainable, then technicians need to be hardwired into the education system."

Sharp, the former Liberal Democrat education spokesperson for the House of Lords, stated that the coalition was very conscious of how important science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects are to the economy.

And she referenced ministers such as Vince Cable and John Hayes in outlining the cross-party consensus behind the support of STEM subjects.

Also speaking at the reception was Professor Alison Halstead, chair of the Commission's inquiry.

Halstead warned that educational establishments were not doing enough to prepare youngsters for work, leaving an employment gap between what people are trained for and the jobs on offer.

She also criticised the educational focus on university, citing that only 36 per cent of learners go on to higher education, with 6 per cent entering apprenticeships and the rest in what she dubbed the "potential unemployment space."

Halstead, who also serves as pro-vice chancellor at Aston University, concluded by outlining a key recommendation from the report – that a technical pathway is created in schools, going through further education level and into universities, as well as into employment.

She argued that this pathway should be established in tandem with employers, in both curriculum and work placements.

Other speakers at the session, hosted on the House of Lords terrace, included Isabel Sutcliffe, director of Edexcel and chair of the Federation of Awarding Bodies, and Andy Palmer of BT.

Sutcliffe emphasised the need to bring professional associations back into the limelight and stated she was keen to embrace the new freedoms afforded to provide more apprenticeships.

Whilst Palmer, director of education and skills at the telecommunications company, outlined dissatisfaction at the standard of STEM graduates from the UK, something heightened by increasing numbers of offshore recruits.

Criticising the media caricature of employees in STEM occupations, he argued that a more accurate depiction of the work of technicians should be presented.

Palmer said: "STEM professions should be presented as they are – exciting, challenging, stimulating and in many, many cases very well paid."

The Skills Commission report, "Why a Plan for Growth needs a Plan for Technicians", was launched in the House of Lords on the 13th October. 

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