Schools are failing to present young people with a full range of career options, a leading construction firm has warned.
NG Bailey said schools must do better in providing guidance on routes to work and the types of careers on offer.
The company has launched a number of initiatives aimed at boosting the popularity of science-based subjects, increasing apprenticeship numbers and attracting more women to the construction industry.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers provide the greatest future job security, with technical apprenticeships offering a solid start in industry, NG Bailey sustainability director Cal Bailey said.
However, many schools not only fail to promote alternative career options to students, but view ‘earn while you learn’ schemes as a poor option.
Mr Bailey said: “Schools are often not good at promoting STEM apprenticeships as they want kids to stay on until sixth form.
“A good alternative, and in no-way a second best, is technical apprenticeships. Many, if not most, schools fail to promote that to kids. It is in the interest of young people to consider their options.”
Not only do graduate apprentices end their courses “highly qualified”, they are usually unburdened by the debt associated with university, Mr Bailey said.
There is “an element of competition” between schools and apprenticeships, which can lead schools to focus on academic routes or view apprenticeships as “negative”, he said. Schools have also faced a “very serious” reduction in funding for career advice activities, Mr Bailey said.
He said: “Schools should be required to present the full range of options for work. Schools have to think holistically about their role in society.”
“We’re calling on schools to do better,” Mr Bailey added.
NG Bailey has launched a programme to give year eight pupils insight into STEM careers.
Inspire will see teenagers work together on technology-related projects to be judged by representatives from the company and its apprenticeship scheme.
Having worked with one school in partnership with Kier last year, the firm has now committed to delivering the programme to 5,000 children by 2018.
That means for every person NG Bailey employs, it will help two children towards a sustainable career.
“We’re encouraging kids to find science fun, in the hope that they will be more open to taking more science subjects,” Mr Bailey said. “It’s those careers that will provide the greatest job security.”
NG Bailey has operated apprenticeship schemes since 1934 and is currently ranked number one employer for apprenticeships in its sector. More than 5,500 people have completed training with the company since 1969. It recently added a bids and proposals course to its long-standing electrical and mechanical engineering options.
The company currently provides around 30 places a year, but this is set to grow, Mr Bailey said.
“There is increasing infrastructure investment in the UK and we expect our apprenticeships will grow as we win our share of the work,” Mr Bailey said.
NG Bailey is also keen to improve diversity in the construction industry.
The majority of its apprenticeships currently go to male applicants, but it has committed to increasing the number of female participants by five per cent year-on-year for the next four years.
“We welcome a more feminine influence on the business,” Mr Bailey said. “The industry is capable of change, to our advantage.”