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The space sector’s influence on STEM education and skills discussed at our latest virtual business breakfast

Published: Mar 7, 2022 4 min read

STEM Learning

Engaging young people in STEM is essential to tackling the UK STEM skills shortage – and our latest virtual business breakfast (which attracted around 70 participants) focused on the space sector and its influence on STEM education, skills and other sectors too.
A fascination for space can be the perfect opportunity to inspire young people about the possibilities and opportunities STEM subjects can offer – and it was illuminating to hear how the space sector engages with young people.
On the panel were:
  • Alex Brown - STEM Support Manager at STEM Learning
  • Joanne Wheeler MBE - Managing Partner at Alden Legal
  • Áine O'Brien - PhD student at the University of Glasgow
  • John Chinner - Principal Electrical Engineer at Airbus Defence and Space
The European Space Education Resource Office (ESERO) is based at the National STEM Learning Centre - and Alex started the discussion by introducing ESERO-UK and what the programme aspires to achieve.
He said: “We are here to support the space sector, which has a great impact on the economy.” He then emphasised the key challenge ESERO, and many other STEM industries are facing – getting young people to consider STEM and in this case, space, as an actual career.
He explained how ESERO is a ‘bridge’ between the sector and schools that helps connect teachers with the industry and, in turn, inspires young people. ESERO delivers activities to engage with teachers on different levels, from continuing professional development (CPD) and resources to the STEM Ambassador programme and career exhibitions.
Joanne then joined the conversation - describing the space industry as multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral, international and collaborative, and echoed Alex’s views on increasing the awareness of the many exciting career prospects it offers.
She emphasised the power of inspiring through role models and introduced The Athena Project – portraying women in roles in the space industry where there are less than 10% women; praised the success of the CanSat competition – where young people are challenged to create a simulation of a real satellite, integrated within the volume and shape of a soft drink can and discussed the Prospero Space Fellowship’s role in tackling the skills shortage.
Joanne finished by saying: “The opportunities are endless, and the UK is well placed to inspire and grow”.
Aine passionately presented her views on space “becoming a playground for the world’s billionaires” and emphasised how space is so much more than that – a place of “collaboration and peace” as well as a place where technological advances first take shape before becoming common technology on Earth.
The panel session was closed by John who shared his experiences that have led him to where he is now. He has used his journey from school through to an apprenticeship before finally becoming an aerospace engineer and now studying for an engineering degree to inspire young people through his work as a STEM Ambassador. He agreed with the other panellists that there are misconceptions that space is only for academics and high-achievers – and pointed out once again that space is for everyone.
He emphasised the importance of working with teachers – helping them, inspiring them and educating them – to create a lasting legacy.
We finished with an inspiring discussion that focused on supporting teachers and parents as the best way to encourage and inspire young people.
Our next business breakfast is on Wednesday 16 March 8-9.30am. We are delighted to be delivering this in partnership with Jacobs at their office in Bristol, making this our first hybrid event with opportunities to attend either in person or remotely.
Using this year’s British Science Week theme of ‘growth’ as a backdrop, we will be focusing on the topic of how businesses of all sizes can grow their STEM talent pipeline and the support that is available to them. Register now
If you were unable to attend this 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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