Posted: 19 June 2013
Comments (6)
Well educated?

Tony Moloney, National Grid’s UK Manager, Education and Skills, joins the debate about the type of education system we need so that young people are better prepared for the world of work.

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Well educated?

Well educated?

We just need to convince more young people that engineering can offer them a great career…”

"We just need to convince more young people that engineering can offer them a great career…"

Tony Moloney, UK Manager for Education and Skills


We have currently got around one million young people under 24 who are unemployed.

Source: Tony Moloney, UK Manager for Education and Skills

At the recent Spectator skills event in London, Steve Holliday referred to the passion we feel within National Grid about developing the right skills for our country.

As employers, we rely on the education system to provide a strong foundation for young people that will prepare them for the careers that lie ahead. But it is unrealistic to leave it solely up to the education system. The onus is on everyone to make the education system work as effectively as possible – and particularly careers advice – so we can meet the needs of modern Britain.

Tony Moloney, National Grid’s UK Manager, Education and Skills.

Tony Moloney, National Grid’s UK Manager, Education and Skills.

We also wanted the Spectator event to be the catalyst for a longer and more meaningful discussion between all of the people with a stake in our education system and how we are going to shape it for the future.

As a starting point for that discussion, here are five big questions that I think we need to answer as individuals, as educators, as businesses and as a nation.

1. What really is our plan for rebalancing the UK economy?

The Government has talked about its ambition to rebalance the UK economy. I believe this is about us becoming a nation that can lead and innovate, particularly in science and engineering – one that will be a global centre for advanced manufacturing while embracing a digital age of European super-grids and super networks for power and energy.

If we are going to achieve this ambition, what is our road map towards that rebalanced economy? Or to put it in business terms, how can we create a macro-economic workforce plan for the UK that sets out what we are as a nation, what we want to become, what critical roles we have to fill and what steps we have to take in order to build, design and create tomorrow’s technologies?

2. What will our education system look like in the future?

We are facing a central challenge to find an education system that makes sense for the nation, for its long-term prosperity and well-being. We need a system that looks out, in a sustainable way, regardless of which Government is in power.

We also need an education system that draws a much stronger connection between what goes on in the classroom and what happens in the world of work, so young people are inspired to pursue the opportunities that will become available to them.

How can Government, businesses and educators work together more effectively to make that happen?

 3. How can we provide the right incentives for educators so they focus on the skills that businesses need for the future?

Most young people going through the education system will go into the world of work, and by that I mean businesses such as advanced manufacturing, energy, digital communications, computer sciences and medical technologies.

How can we fund our educators – and measure their performance – in a way that reflects our national priorities? And how can we get people to start focusing less on how many people go to university as a way of measuring our education system and more on how many people go into work, through vocational paths such as traineeships and apprenticeships? If we want to rebalance our economy, we also have to rebalance our education system.

4. How can we increase the participation of our young people in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects at school and university?

Most of the jobs within a rebalanced economy will be STEM based. We need to get the message across to young people that they’re likely to earn more money if they study STEM subjects – and to build more fulfilling careers through the variety of roles that will expand around us, even in technologies that have not yet been invented.

Careers advice has a vital role to play in this, and at the Spectator event Steve set out a plan for businesses to transform the way this is currently delivered. What can you do to help us achieve that plan?

5. What should we do for our unemployed young people?

We have currently got around one million young people under 24 who are unemployed.

It is a tragedy that so many young people come from families that have lived with unemployment as a fact of life for two or three generations, and so have grown up thinking that the world of work has nothing to offer them.

A key theme from Steve’s speech is that we should be putting these young people to work through traineeships, apprenticeships and other social programmes, because it achieves two things:

  • It builds confidence and esteem in young people right from the start, giving them a feeling that they have a stake in the nation’s future, and
  • We can start to build a workforce capability in which we can invest properly over a 50-year time-span, while giving hope to so many young people who are living in an environment where there is no aspiration.

I will be returning to the question of the education system and careers advice in future blogs on Connecting. In the meantime, why not join the discussion? Tell us what you think of these big questions by posting your comment below.

  • Dominic Harrison

    I completely agree with the aims of this initiative. My wife and a business partner are starting offering tailor made careers advice to seconday school pupils as they have identified and received a lot of encouraging support from local schools and parents for this type of service. I would be interested in discussing this with Tony Moloney or someone from the NG Education & Skills Team in order to share ideas and ways forward to get the message of the benefits of STEM to pupils at GCSE level and help identify kids with the right profile for a future in Engineering.

  • Tony Moloney

    Dominic. We are always keen to explore new and more effective ways to engage with students, particularly at secondary level, where they face a number of critical decisions on what to study, why and where will it lead? Please contact me to set up a meeting.

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  • Christopher Hartley

    It’s a sad fact that in the ever increasing world of celebrity, a lot of youngsters want to be famous. They don’t want to achieve it through creating technological advances & breakthroughs but through being the next pop star / model / footballer / film star etc.

    Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be great but we have to consider the facts. When I asked my 4 year old son what he wanted to be when he’s older he said “I want to be an engineer like you daddy”. I have no doubt that this will change in weeks (not years) to come but what if he said a footballer? He would be one of millions of youngsters worldwide who want to be the same and how many professional footballers are there? I’d say that it’s less than 1/2 million. Multiply that across the other desirable celebrity careers and we end up with very few opportunities but tens of millions of people wanting them. If someone shows promise which can be nurtured then great but unfortunately most of these youngsters will not make the grade and without guidance from their parents/teachers/peers etc then they’ll realise too late. Their opportunities could then be impacted depending on how late in the day they have realised.

    So what can be done to inspire them to be an engineer of the future – I’d say that it has to be exposure. This could be parents etc doing things with their children at home, the local woods or at facilities (such as the Science Museum & Eureka) etc. Alternatively (&/or additionally) programs such as Imagineering in Primary Schools and STEM Ambassador activities from Primary through to A-Level and even university level. I actively participate in both programs and bringing STEM subjects to children clearly ignites their interest. It just has to be kept and nurtured and this is where the schooling and mentoring system comes in to play.

    Every journey whether long or short starts with the first step, we as engineers need to be prepared to take it ourselves and help others to do it as well. We shouldn’t leave the journey to others but we should give back what we have benefited from in the past. I’ll never forget the first model I built with my dad (I still have it) and where it led me in terms of education & career. It’s therefore an honour & privilege being able to give others an opportunity to explore the world of engineering.

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