Making STEM part of your careers strategy
Over the past few months, careers in STEM have received constant attention from the media. We’ve seen stories of scientists working on COVID19 vaccines, engineers developing new ventilation equipment and computing specialists working on track and trace technology.
With jobs in the STEM sectors having been predicted to rise at double the rate of other occupations from 2016-2023 (Jobs of the Future, 2016), it is imperative that we support young people to find out about the STEM careers available to them and help them understand how they can access these careers through academic, technical and vocational pathways.
In this article, Christina Reffold (Careers Leader, Canons High School) tells us how she is raising the profile of STEM careers in her school, including working with local STEM employers through the STEM Ambassador programme.
Raising the profile of STEM careers with our students has been on the school’s agenda for some years, we are starting to see the impact now in our destination data. Compared to the previous year, this years data from our Year 13 leavers, saw around a 10% increase in those going on to study a STEM subject at Higher Education. Interestingly, we’ve seen more students going on to study Computer Science related courses than Engineering, which has previously been a popular choice for students at the school.
A team effort
Where to start?! There is lots of work done across the curriculum to link careers to lessons and the STEM subjects are great advocates. We have made contacts with STEM employers by using the STEM Ambassador network, Inspiring the Future and the Careers & Enterprise Company network. We also tend to make new contacts through our Annual Careers Fair, where we invite over 50 organisations in to the school. Longer term, I’m working towards having a bank of STEM Ambassadors that are able to support our different subject areas and create longer lasting relationships with teaching staff.
STEM employer careers activities
The most beneficial activities have been those that have delivered enterprise style or STEM club style projects, enabling students to gain practical experience and try tasks out for themselves. STEM employers have helped give these challenges an industrial focus and have even hosted follow up visits to their workplaces. For assemblies, we work with our local STEM Ambassador hub to recruit STEM speakers who provide short career talks covering a range of different sectors. To support student research into STEM careers we use the online Careers Platform Unifrog, allowing students to access labour market information about STEM careers. We also use Fast Tomato, which includes an online personality questionnaire that links student’s interests to career paths including those within the STEM industry areas. During the national lockdown and school closure we altered the careers programme to run online events, including our first ever Year 10 Virtual STEM Careers Day! When it comes to employer careers activities, naturally there are some things that work better than others. We find that anything that has a meaningful impact tends to be more than a one off talk. For example, STEM projects and workplace visits tend to leave a lasting impression with students that you can build on with whole school careers strategies.
Next year we will be placing more focus on engaging female students in our STEM careers work. Although the destination data for those going on to study STEM subjects is strong on the whole there is a gap, with only 9% of those students being female.
Looking for support with STEM careers? Take a look at these programmes and resources to help bring more STEM into your careers strategy:
Packed with creative ideas and practical suggestions, this toolkit explores how STEM careers can support secondary schools and colleges to achieve each of the Gatsby Career Benchmarks, helping to build STEM-specific content into your careers strategy.
This guide is aimed at teachers who are passionate about providing STEM career experiences for young people. It offers immediate ideas to try, longer term strategies and resource recommendations to help bring STEM career learning into lessons.
STEM Ambassadors are volunteers from a wide range of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related jobs and disciplines across the UK. They offer their time and enthusiasm to help bring STEM subjects to life and demonstrate the value of them in life and careers.
Find out more about our support for STEM career learning by visiting www.stem.org.uk/stem-career