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Attracting more young people in to STEM education and careers

Published: Jul 1, 2020 4 min read

STEM learning

STEM Learning is currently planning its third virtual business breakfast exploring how we can attract more young people into STEM.

The focus will be on improving diversity and inclusion in STEM education and careers. It will be an opportunity to explore how widening participation to include all young people, regardless of background, is desirable not just for equality, but to meet economic need and maximise creativity. You can sign up for the free online event taking place on 16 July, 9am-10:30am.

Speakers at STEM Learning business breakfast


We are hoping that it will build on the previous discussions we had at our last virtual event held at the beginning of June. Here we looked at the importance of narrowing the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. A panel made up of employers and educators led the conversation exploring the difficulties being faced by young people due to the current pandemic situation as well as looking at the challenges facing us when the lockdown starts to lift.

The challenges we face

We heard from STEM Learning’s Senior Educational Lead, Wayne Jarvis, who talked about how the attainment gap, had actually been narrowing recently. However the disruption to schooling due to the Covid-19 crisis looks likely to widen the gap again and even create greater inequality. The period of lockdown is not only affecting those families who are financially poor, but also those in rural areas that are physically difficult to get to and may not have access to adequate internet connections.

The view from the front line

Giving an educator’s perspective, primary teacher Gail Pugh echoed much of Wayne’s views and described the work that goes in to trying to maintain pupil engagement as lockdown continues. Some of the measures her school was employing included taking the learning to the families; regular check-ins through weekly phone calls; someone always available on the phone to offer advice and support; and seeing each child every two weeks to keep that contact going. This way they have been able to retain a measure of continuity and engagement with their students, inspiring a boost in the work being done and hopefully minimising the disruption being faced. However, she recognised that the bridging of the gap would require both medium and long-term plans.

The importance of business engagement

Representing employers who work closely with STEM Learning, Marelisa Vega, of GE, and Lucy Waterman, of GSK, both described how their businesses had adapted their STEM engagement and inspiration programmes to an online approach.

Lucy spoke about GSK’s focus on building ‘STEM Capital’, which she described as a bag that young people carry around with them containing everything to do with STEM, namely:

  • Knowledge – what they know
  • Attitudes – how they think
  • Experiences – what they do and see
  • People - Who they know in terms of family, friends and employers

She stressed the connection between the amount of STEM capital a young person has and their aspirations for their own futures. In this time of restriction and lack of access to the normal school environment, building STEM capital from  a variety of sources such as family, external influences and links with the real world, as well as from school, are key in continuing to encourage and engage a diverse range of people in to in STEM subjects and careers

Marelisa added to this, stressing how fundamental it is for GE to consult with and work alongside experts like STEM Learning to tackle these challenges. She explained GE’s concern at the shortfall of engineers in the UK and that it is keen to make more progress on encouraging women and other under-represented groups into engineering roles. One way of doing this is by changing the narrative and telling stories about engineers being the game-changers of the world – creating role models for the future workforce to aspire to.

Overall, the event showed how effective a collaborative and flexible approach by all of us can benefit and support young people engaging in STEM. We have all reacted quickly to the challenges we have faced. However, the conversation needs to continue. We want more young people to consider STEM as an option for them.

Please come along to our next event: ‘Improving Diversity & Inclusion in STEM Education and Careers’ and join our experienced panel:

 Jan Linsley: Jan Linsley Education Consultancy

 Lisa King: AstraZeneca

 Natalie Cheung: STEM Learning

 Nonye Ndekwu: Goldman Sachs

 Rani Chahal: Rolls-Royce PLC

They will be sharing their experiences and will be ready to answer questions.

Find out more and sign up