Joint report shows direction of travel for support for STEM Ambassadors

STEM Learning, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), have released a new report representing a year’s work into how to further improve the effectiveness and impact of the STEM Ambassadors programme.

STEM Ambassadors are volunteers representing a vast range of STEM-related jobs and disciplines across the UK. Over 30,000 STEM Ambassadors, from more than 2,500 employers, offer their enthusiasm and experiences free of charge to encourage young people to achieve more and progress further in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

This new report has reviewed evidence from existing research and best practice as well as undertaking workshops and surveys to look at employer engagement in schools. It shows that engaging STEM professionals in education can bring many social, educational and economic benefits to young people. It highlights that, however, there are barriers that can undermine the effectiveness of employer engagement.

Gill Collinson, Head of Centre and Partnerships and STEM Learning, said:

“The evidence shows that STEM Ambassadors inspire young people, have a positive impact on their own organisations, enhance the quality of teaching and boost their own skills through their volunteering. However, barriers such as lack of resources, mismatched motivations, and cultural differences between schools, colleges and employers can mean engagements are not as effective as they could be. Our aim, in partnership with iMechE, IET and others is to provide additional support that helps us overcome such barriers. 

We will be developing information and guidance, supporting new infrastructures to facilitate engagements, evaluating the impact, developing networks and providing more training opportunities for STEM Ambassadors. We look forward to working with STEM Ambassadors and employers to ensure their engagements with schools and colleges have the biggest impact they can on young people’s attainment and aspirations.”

Peter Finegold, Head of Education at IMechE, said:

"The Institution of Mechanical Engineers is delighted to have contributed to this project with our partners IET and STEM Learning. The role of STEM Ambassadors is a vital element of our campaign to encourage more young people, and from more diverse backgrounds, to consider a future in engineering and other STEM sectors. We hope the recommendations of this report will be adopted by all employers and education institutions, and look forward to seeing STEM Ambassadors encouraged, incentivised and rewarded for their work."

David Lakin, Head of Education 5-19 at the IET, said:

“The IET is delighted to be working with STEM Learning and the IMechE to investigate how we can further improve the effectiveness and impact of the STEM Ambassadors programme. Understanding the barriers, methods of best practice and the recommendations highlighted in this report to aid STEM Ambassadors and employers in playing their part in inspiring more young people to consider STEM as a career option is vital to improving the UK skills shortage and generating engineers and technicians for the future.”

The report sets out recommendations that the group will take forward in order to overcome such gaps and barriers and improve the professional development support available to STEM Ambassadors.

The recommendations are:

STEM Ambassador engagement

  1. Increase the importance of STEM Ambassador networking – at both the regional and national levels.
  2. More fully recognised volunteering and especially early retired STEM Ambassadors as a flexible resource, to deliver support and resources.
  3. More co-ordination of STEM Ambassador activities at a senior level within a school or college (at the Senior Management Team (SMT) or Multi Academy Trust (MAT) level), to maximise impact of employer engagement.

School-college/employer engagement

  1. More engagement directly with employers, in collaboration with the PEIs, to increase the ‘credit or recognition’ they get for what they already do.
  2. Develop online handbooks and support packs for employers, schools and colleges, to increase engagement and/or improve its effectiveness and impact.
  3. EIs and STEM Learning to facilitate school and employer workshops where senior leaders from schools and employers attend and discuss collaboration.
  4. More engagement with schools on supporting their specific need to offer work placements for all pupils.

Collaboration at the national level in the UK

  1. A campaign, together with government, IMechE, IET and other PEIs, such as Engineering UK and the Royal Academy of Engineering, to increase overall awareness of, and engagement with, STEM Ambassadors and their role in supporting the UK’s Industrial Strategy.
  2. Further collaboration between the key organisations to strategically support best practice regarding meeting the benchmarks in the Careers Strategy (sharing areas and ensuring there are no gaps).
  3. Raising awareness of the growing range of professional development support available to STEM Ambassadors.

Over the coming months STEM Learning, IMechE and the IET will be working with other partner organisations to take forward these recommendations.

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