The importance of collaboration between businesses and schools and the role STEM Ambassadors play in engaging young people were key points discussed in our virtual business breakfast this week.
70 delegates from across the STEM landscape joined the discussion on working collaboratively in times of uncertainty, led by STEM Learning, with speakers from lead organisations in the aerospace, biopharmaceutical and technology sectors:
- Lyndsey Charlton, Operations Director, Daisy Corporate Services
- Margaret Mortlock, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Pfizer UK
- Oliver Hermmann, UK Early Careers Lead, Collins Aerospace
- Mark Langley, Science CPD Lead, STEM Learning
- Natalie Cheung, STEM Ambassador Coordinator, STEM Learning
A major part of the conversation was the important role STEM businesses play in sharing their passion, skills and knowledge with schools. It was clear that many have a similar goal: to inspire the next generation to follow a STEM career to increase the future talent pool; and that the key to this was to engage students in STEM subjects from a young age.
Margaret Mortlock talked in particular about the increase in public awareness, of not only Pfizer but the biopharmaceutical sector in general, with the role they have played to find a COVID-19 vaccine - Although this has raised the sector’s profile with young people in the UK, they have also experienced challenges. Their ambition for 2020 was to see their STEM Ambassador programme reach 100,000 students using their Science in a Box programmes through their STEM Ambassadors. The lockdown caused by the pandemic necessitated a switch in approach with engagement moving to remote delivery. This flexible approach has delivered a raft of positive outcomes including a virtual work experience event, careers fair and accelerating the delivery of programmes direct to student’s homes.
Lyndsey Charlton highlighted her personal passion and drive to lead a ‘diversity crusade’ to increase the number of female IT engineers at Daisy Corporate Services. She described how she’s recruiting STEM Ambassadors from across the organisation by explaining to colleagues that they do not have to have a STEM background to be an ambassador - but could come from any part of the organisation. Her approach was a success, and she was able to present a robust business case to her executive team which led to an investment in an ENTHUSE Partnership, with STEM Learning to deliver Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to teachers to support addressing the skills shortage in the technology sector.
Oliver Herrmann from Collins Aerospace – another recent ENTHUSE Partnership sponsor - also shared some examples of the work they are doing to support schools and teachers going forward into 2021. He talked about the importance of the 2-way collaboration with STEM Learning that has enabled them to change their previous reactive response to school requests to a proactive planned approach. This includes the introduction of graduates to their STEM Ambassador programme to increase engagement of younger students; teacher placements and delivering remote employability sessions - all helping to have a direct impact on their sector’s talent pool.
To meet some of the challenges faced by schools in the pandemic, Mark Langley explained how STEM Learning has adapted its offer and introduced a range of remote and online CPD - not only for existing teachers that were already engaged with STEM Learning but to new audiences including non-specialist teachers. He also talked about how the first lockdown had given some teachers, who had never undertaken CPD with STEM Learning, the opportunity to engage not only in the CPD but also to access the huge range of resources and support from other programmes such as the STEM Ambassador programme. Mark explained that this flexible approach to developing new CPD and resources such as ‘Starters for STEM’ would continue as teachers face the expected challenges going forward into 2021.
STEM Learning’s Natalie Cheung encouraged participants at the business event to engage with the STEM Ambassador programme to enable STEM Learning to continue the important work it was undertaking to connect STEM businesses to schools. She emphasised the importance of the work they do and will continue to undertake with an example of an initiative undertaken with BT - showcasing alternative routes for students in the employer market place via their apprenticeship scheme. She also highlighted the role ambassadors play in supporting students with key life skills including how to write an effective CV and application form – often skillsets missing in schools.
Finally, what was very clear in the discussion from all the panel members and participants was the level of enthusiasm to work with young people - to engage and inspire them from an early age in STEM subjects and careers. Inspirational lessons delivered by business STEM Ambassadors had been key to this engagement and the continuation of these remotely throughout the pandemic had highlighted the flexible and collaborative approach that businesses and schools have taken throughout 2020 - which will continue in the future whatever the challenges.
If you are an employer that has been inspired by our recent business discussion and share our mission of a world-leading STEM education for every young person in the UK, whatever their background, please contact our employers team.
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