The recent drive led by the Gatsby Careers Benchmarks has left schools and colleges with a remit to improve student understanding and awareness of careers. It is hoped that by improving knowledge and ability we will equip young people with confidence and the skills they need to step out into the world of employment.
A STEM Club, whatever its main subject matter, can be a perfect environment to add extra value to a school's careers agenda. By their very nature, they offer young people the opportunity to focus on STEM subjects in a novel and engaging way, helping to promote understanding of how these subjects fit within the real world. It is a short step to add in a careers focus and enhance essential skills.
Boosting careers awareness
STEM Clubs are a great way to engage with STEM Ambassadors, providing fun opportunities for young people to learn from an experienced STEM professional. Together, they can explore project work but also use the experience to learn more about the STEM Ambassador, the work they do, the route they took to achieve their role and gain advice on which routes to take for themselves.
A recent addition to the STEM Clubs support portfolio is the careers-linked themed activities, A Future STEM, which clubs can dip in and out of. The careers and employability skills led activities can help young people to think critically about how people in STEM roles make a difference to our lives, the depth of STEM stereotyping, what universities or apprenticeships look for and how to prepare an interview with a STEM Ambassador.
They also take a look at ‘hidden’ STEM careers. Like an iceberg, only a small percentage is visible and we have to look harder to see the whole picture. For instance, when looking at the rolling credits at the end of a movie, have you ever considered what the job titles mean? For example, a Gaffer is the chief electrician or chief lighting technician and they are often supported by… the Grip…whose role is to work out what lighting is needed to support the cameras in order to boost the artistry of a scene!
Enhancing essential skill sets
An important part of learning about careers is knowing the key skills sought by employers. In general, employers look for articulate, problem-solving individuals who are capable of working in a variety of circumstances. The employer wants to know their future employees have developed a series of skill sets that will enable them to cope with whatever role they find themselves.
The Skills Builder Partnership has created a free framework for schools and colleges to use which identifies employability skills and how you can enhance them. It enables teachers to assess individual student strengths across eight areas: listening, presenting, problem-solving, creativity, staying positive, aiming high, leadership and teamwork. STEM Clubs are a natural fit to incorporate them.
When club members work on a project, think about the dynamics of the team. Can you set students different tasks so they each have a key responsibility, can you alternate which student takes charge? Provide opportunities for the students to talk about their project with their peers, get them to create a presentation about their findings, including what went well, what could be improved and how they coped when it went wrong.
Encourage them to think beyond the immediate need and to aim higher, what else could they do, what steps are needed to improve the project and take it to the next level.
Keep a track of their progress, let them know when they have improved a skill – the framework has digital certificates you can use. It is an easy system to use and brings a wealth of benefits to both students and teachers, helping to integrate club learning with curricular lessons and support the school’s career agenda.
Skills-linked activities and STEM Club leader workshops
And finally, STEM Learning has developed a series of employability skills linked practical STEM activities suitable for 7-16-year-olds. The themed activities focus on the world around us and what the future might hold, with clear links in each activity to the essential skills they can enhance.
And, for club leaders, we’ve developed a free-to-attend workshop to help embed careers and employability skills into club sessions. The workshop takes place locally across England in after-school sessions and could really help a club leader to support their school's career agenda.
So next time you’re asked to think about how you can support your school to raise awareness of careers, tell them your STEM Club has a solution!