Design and Technology, skills and employment

Published 2nd December 2015

The latest NEET figures (not in education, employment or training) make for dismal reading.

Although down marginally year on year, according to the Department for Education, one in six 16 to 24-year-olds in England were not in education, employment or training at the end of June this year. Behind the numbers are the experiences of these young people themselves, who week by week find their confidence and their self-worth and their stake in society ebbing away.

So what is the connection with Design and Technology?

From the consultation that we carried out as part of our New Vision for Design and Technology campaign, a clear consensus emerged that Design and Technology as a subject is uniquely placed to build the skills that young people need to help them into both employment and self-employment.

Though the teaching of design as a process, Design and Technology also has the potential to deliver the kind of universal employability skills that employers have repeatedly told us they are looking for, such as creativity, problem solving and the ability to present ideas.

As a subject, Design and Technology can help the ablest students to make creative and innovative use of their existing skills and academic knowledge. It can also help engage the less able students who find STEM subjects a struggle, helping them into more applied, vocational careers. D&T is often named as the most popular and least truanted subject.

Design and Technology can also help highlight career opportunities and routes into higher education, by offering a practical insight into different sectors such as graphic design, product design, fashion, food, engineering and architecture.

In building these skills it also builds feelings of confidence and empowerment that young people often lack when entering jobs markets for the first time.

The Government’s proposed changes to the curriculum, focussing on raising attainment in English, Maths and Sciences may raise academic attainment for the brightest, and provide a strong academic foundation. However what is also needed is the practical and creative application of these principles, the development of the universal employability skills that are needed in the workplace and a subject that helps to engage the less academically motivated. There is a risk that on its own, this will need to a widening gap between the experience of school and the workplace, between the able and the less able and between the needs of economy in an advanced technological society and the skills that schools deliver. University Technical Colleges will make a difference for a small minority of children, but they will not solve this problem.

What is needed is a strong and well funded Design and Technology subject at the heart of education, where young people build skills and confidence through the key stages that will help them participate as skilled, economically active citizens in their future working lives.

For more information on the latest NEET figures refer to the Department for Education website

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