A Level results day 2021: School leavers look to ‘jobs of the future’

This A Level results day, school leavers across the UK are re-evaluating their career priorities after the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than plugs and sockets

‘Jobs of the future’, that will deliver Net Zero Carbon by 2050 and fight the effects of the climate crisis, are growing in appeal to school leavers. With the right training, electrotechnical professionals can help the UK significantly reduce its carbon emissions through their day-to-day work. Successful careers in this field often start with an apprenticeship and on the job learning, yet school leavers lack information on the best route to follow.

Apprenticeships are often overlooked in favour of a university degree. Perceptions among A Level students are skewed, as careers advisors, teachers and parents rarely promote them as a viable option or alternative to a university degree.

“Young people enthused by calls to halt and reverse climate change need more encouragement to consider a career designing, installing and maintaining UK’s new low carbon infrastructure,” says Andrew Eldred, ECA’s Director of Employment and Skills. “Electrotechnical and engineering services knowledge and skills are essential for the successful roll-out of nearly all low carbon technologies, including solar PV, heat pumps, battery storage and electric vehicle charging.

“Apprentices are the bedrock of the electrotechnical and engineering services industry. Those employers able to retain and hire new apprentices can expect a healthy return on their investment, as well as longer-term benefits such as more sustainable business growth and stronger capability in new technologies.”

Shifting priorities

According to a study by housebuilder Redrow, more than a third of A Level pupils are less likely to choose a university education than they were before the pandemic. At the same time, almost half (42%) of young people say they are now more likely to consider on-the-job learning and apprenticeships.

More than a third (36%) said they were concerned about their job prospects since the onset of the pandemic, and the proportion of young people offered information about apprenticeships via school was found to be at a four-year low – matching ECA’s own finding that only one per cent of school leavers were advised to consider an electrical or plumbing career by teachers, and two per cent by school career advisors.

A survey carried out by ECA showed that a quarter of 18- to 24-year-olds thought low pay levels were a barrier to a career in the trades. More than a quarter also perceived a lack of opportunity for career progression.

These notions could not be further from the truth: figures from the FMB show the average annual salaries for qualified plumbers and electricians range from £47,500 to £51,000. Meanwhile, the average graduate salary is around £23,000. Subsequent career progression into technician, management, commercial and professional roles can boost earnings further to £60,000 and above.

New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that 18% of Brits overall have considered a trades career after the coronavirus pandemic. A further 18% found employment within a trade sector during the pandemic to pick up additional work or start a new career.

Skills for Net Zero

In 2020, ECA partnered with TESP, BESA, the Renewable Energy Association and Solar Energy UK to produce the Skills4Climate industry report, examining ways to ensure the electrotechnical sector has the required skills base to deliver Net Zero by 2050.

The report found that 88 per cent of engineering services employers support a green recovery, yet a quarter (25%) said they would not be able to find competent workers to meet an increase in demand for net zero technologies.

Almost three quarters (72%) said that poor careers advice for young people was the main barrier to new entrants to the industry.

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