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STEM education for all – an inspiring discussion to mark our 25th Business Breakfast

Published: Jan 25, 2022 5 min read

STEM Learning

Why every young person deserves a world-class STEM education was the topic of discussion at our 25th ‘virtual’ Business Breakfast. Set against the backdrop of the current levelling up agenda – around 90 attendees from STEM industries, employers and education, sparked inspiring conversations with participants sharing ideas, resources and expertise.

The panel included:
  • Frank Norris MBE, Co-op Adviser on Education and Schools currently seconded to Northern Powerhouse Partnership
  • Kara Connon, STEM Lead for Europe at Jacobs
  • Owen McAteer, Regional Network Lead for the North East at STEM Learning
  • Steve Botterill, Human Resource Director Eaton EMEA and STE[a]M Champion
Kicking off the celebratory 25th Business Breakfast was Owen McAteer who talked about the barriers faced by young people to progress into STEM careers. He mentioned a range of issues including lower expectations about the availability of STEM jobs for young people; a perception that there are few inspiring careers or role models in the area; negative impressions of STEM jobs as being ‘factory work’; and the challenges of digital and social poverty.
Owen said: “We need to talk about STEM jobs in an exciting way to break these perceptions, which are often entrenched in multigenerational experiences that are hard to change. We should showcase the wide range of exciting careers available in STEM that involve innovation. The STEM Ambassadors programme is a great example of how STEM professionals show young people the diverse range of jobs that are an option to them”.
Owen also emphasised the rising need for digital skills in all jobs and how digital education needs to be integrated into the curriculum on multiple levels.
Frank Norris, took the conversation further highlighting the issues of digital poverty and emphasising the need for digital and broadband connectivity to be considered a utility in a modern society - with teachers confident and equipped with the knowledge to deliver computer science skills. Frank emphasised that investing and improving educational strategies in a region can lead to attracting the right businesses and improving the local economy.
Kara Connon gave us the view from business – talking about Jacobs’s work in attracting talent and ensuring equal opportunities for young people everywhere.
She said: “Real life application brings STEM to life for young people. Having a diverse STEM team gives pupils an opportunity to see themselves in these careers, and that is why we begin working with young people from the early stages.”
Jacobs engage with young people in many ways and through various programmes including three ENTHUSE Partnerships with STEM Learning. Jacobs have also created networks including the Women’s Network and ACE Network among others to showcase the diversity of STEM employees in Jacobs and encourage more young people to consider working for them. Kara also introduced the Butterfly Effect a teacher-led programme that helps provide sustainability education for primary pupils, inspiring them into STEM.
Steve Botterill, highlighted the old-fashioned ‘male, pale, stale’ perception of engineering and how EATON is working to break this stigma. With their STE[a]M strategy, EATON focus on helping young people to make the right educational choice.
“People make decisions when they are 11-13, and these decisions may affect their whole life. So, we want young people to be aware of how exciting and interesting STEM careers are and ensuring that when they join EATON as employees, they have a rewarding and fulfilling career. As a company, we need a pipeline of talent coming in to build a better future”, explained Steve.
The inspiring session ended with a great discussion on emphasising the importance of creativity – adding the ‘A’ – into STEM. What is more creative than designing a bridge which connects communities or a medical device which improves the quality of life? STEaM combines skills around problem solving, team work, presentation, reviewing a report etc. which are all fundamental to so many careers.
Our next Business Breakfast event will be taking place at the end of February, focusing on how the Space Industry can support STEM education. The UK Space sector is growing fast, and this will be a chance to discover the many career opportunities available from space exploration to developments in satellite technology. A fascinating conversation for us all with a nod to the Mars Mission thrown in. Make sure you sign up as soon as you see it advertised.
If you were unable to attend today’s session and would like a copy of the recording, please contact employers@stem.org.uk clearly stating which business breakfast you are interested in. Or, if you want to speak to us about how you might support us with any of our programmes, please contact Liz Whitworth l.whitworth@stem.org.uk for an initial conversation.
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