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Careers in the STEM curriculum

Published: Jan 31, 2020 4 min read

STEM learning

I’m guessing pretty much every teacher has been asked the question “Why do we need to know this?” by a student at some point in their career. What answer would you give to them? 

Cogs with the words Careers, Education and Skill written on them

If it is to suggest linking learning to the world outside of the classroom, giving examples of people who use that skill or knowledge as part of their job, or maybe disclosing how you used that knowledge in a previous career before teaching, then you are providing careers learning in the classroom.

Careers learning is often seen in STEM classrooms, but as teachers we don’t always have the time to think about how we can do this effectively. I was a science teacher and careers educator for 24 years and I am currently studying for an MA in Careers Education and Coaching at the University of Derby; here are my top tips for careers education in the STEM classroom.

Top tip #1 Celebrate your CV

Discuss your prior jobs with your students, including part-time and summer jobs. Even if your jobs were nothing to do with your subject, your students can still be influenced by your stories of how useful employability skills are in the workplace (ie how you needed to be organised, have good communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team). You could take this a step further by showing how these skills are relevant to your lessons.

Top tip #2 Video value

Link a lesson to a real-life situation by showing a video clip of someone talking about their job, for example, videos of a lighting designer showing how maths and physics are integral to their work.

Top tip #3 Career connections

Give your students the opportunity to meet a person who uses your subject in their role. Invite a former student, parent or contact to come into a lesson and speak about the topic being taught and how it links to their world of work. If you don’t have a contact, try requesting a STEM Ambassador to be part of a lesson. STEM Ambassadors are volunteers who either work or study in STEM-related subjects and volunteer their time to work with schools, colleges and youth groups. 

Top tip #4 Curiouser and curiouser

Curiosity is an important skill to foster in young people. Try to create space within your curriculum and enrichment activities for students to explore career ideas linked to the lesson topic. How about homework to create a piece of extended writing that explores a day in the life of a tree surgeon? A STEM Club activity that helps students develop their employability skills through creating a home for the future? A poster that defines the skills needed to be a game designer? A leaflet that advises students how to become an automotive engineer? The added benefit to this top tip is that students’ work can then be used to create a careers wall display!

Top tip #5 National Careers Week

Link your lesson planning to National Careers Week – 2 to 7 March. This celebratory week looks at all things careers and is a great opportunity to pull together as a department or faculty and shine a careers light on your lessons. Take a look at the National Careers Week website for information and advice on how to run careers events in your classroom during the week:

Liz Painter is science teacher and careers educator, Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership

This article is taken from STEM Learning's Secondary Magazine. See all our magazine content here.

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