IET comment on post-COVID A-level results: employers & academia must look beyond just grades

10 August 2021


As students across England & Scotland received their post-pandemic A-level, BTEC & Highers results, a leading engineers’ body is calling for employers & academia to be flexible in how they support students on the next stage of their learning.

Stephanie Baxter, Education & Skills Lead at the Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET) said: “Congratulations to all those receiving their results today. It has been a difficult year for many and with almost no students taking any form of exam this year and limited opportunity to undertake any practical work experience.

This makes it incredibly complex for colleges and universities to select who will be the best candidates for the future workforce of engineers. Employers and academia must be flexible and understanding when taking on new students or employees, acknowledging that grades have been awarded differently this year. They must also be aware of the loss of learning that has accumulated during the pandemic and take time to ensure all students have opportunities to access industry experience where possible.

When choosing the future workforce of engineers, work from the IET showed the importance of looking at the aptitude of candidates when assessing who would make the best future engineers. This included looking for students with more creativity and removing the requirement for engineering that students had to have studied maths and physics to an advanced level. Students should be engaged with trying to create problem-based solutions and have a greater interdisciplinary focus than it currently does. Academia and employers must ensure there is greater diversity within the engineering field, in both minority groups, but also in ways of thinking.

It must also be remembered that university is not necessarily the best route for all students aspiring to become engineers. Apprenticeships, including degree apprenticeships, are just as strong qualifications when entering the engineering workforce. These hands-on apprenticeships provide students with the training and experience they need to become problem solving, skilled workers, ready for the future of work.

As today brings much joy, Higher Education and employers must remember that engineering requires the right aptitude and ability. These must be assessed alongside the grade any student receives.

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