Good ideas — just make sure there are the resources. That is the main message in the joint Engineering Employers Federation (EEF)-EMTA response to the government's recent green paper on secondary education.
The associations have welcomed the proposed increase in technical content for the education of 14 to 19- year-olds. But Martin Temple, EEF director general, added: "We are concerned that the proposals will simply fall by the wayside if the issue of how schools can meet the demands of the new curriculum is not addressed."
Ann Bailey, EEF head of education and skills, amplified Temple's comments by pointing to the scale and the complexity of the resources required, especially for mentoring and careers advice.
"tThe teachers are going to need the proper resources, help and support," she said. "And if young people are expected to develop a proper learning plan, then they are also going to need support to do that, either from the teachers or external partners."
But the philosophy behind the green paper is seen as a step in the right direction. The new curriculum will let pupils pursue individual learning programmes. Industry thinks this could help promote the GCSE in engineering.
Dr Michael Sanderson, chief executive of engineering training body EMTA, said: "We and the EEF are putting a lot of energy into supporting the launch of the engineering GCSE. If that is successful, it should make a real difference in encouraging young people into apprenticeships, which is an area in which the industry has the greatest need."
Engineering needs 33 000 modern apprentices in training at any one time. Today, there are 22 000. In response, the EEF and EMTA want 400 schools to offer the engineering GCSE by 2005.
Dr Sanderson is concerned that some pupils could drop technical subjects in personal programmes in favour of more creative ones: "This is why we are putting so much energy into marketing the technical route. I'm cautiously optimistic that this won't be too much of a problem, but until we begin work on it we won't know."
For Dr Sanderson, one other aspect of the green paper that raises concern is allowing pupils to drop modern languages: "Engineering is a global business and many EMTA members are eager to operate across Europe — some larger companies move apprentices around Europe."