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Encouraging the next generation of STEM employees

5 March, 2018
Mary Hunter

Business Unit Manager - United Kingdom

Encouraging the next generation of STEM employees

Our children are our future. The Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) sectors are critical to the country’s future. As head of a major UK digital business services provider, delivering technology to transform businesses, we want to share our experiences to excite and encourage children to take up careers in our industry.

That’s why I took time out this week along with my colleagues at Columbus to invite a class of 10 and 11 year olds from Holy Cross School in Hucknall to our Nottingham offices for a morning of activities and presentations around our industry. In this short session, we were able to engage with over 30 children on the benefits and opportunities of pursuing a possible career in STEM and look at the variety of career options available to them, to showcase the broad appeal of a career in technology.

We used Columbus customers to provide examples of how our industry operates, such as following how Weetabix – a staple of many family breakfast tables in the UK – makes its way from field to spoon and Just Eat to show how they use technology from mobile to voice recognition to business applications in order to get your take away to you.

The response from the children was amazing – they were keen to interact with our presenters, take part in our technology demonstrations and ask as many thoughtful and probing questions as possible throughout the session.

We go further to reach out to children

Today’s event is just the latest of several initiatives we at Columbus have carried out with schools in the Nottingham area. And we don’t just talk – we’ve donated laptops to Holy Cross School to provide children with a platform for learning about technology, and actively promote the establishment of ‘Code Clubs’, which help the minds of tomorrow learn the skills that are so vital in today’s digital world.

Some companies may question why we engage with children at such an early age. The answer is simple. We recognise the importance of reaching out to children in the local community at an early stage, to help foster their passion for technology and science.

By teaching children about the opportunities available in STEM and sharing examples of how companies such as Columbus operate, we want to offer an early window into STEM careers that would otherwise not be available to them. I’m delighted by the efforts of my team at Columbus who recognise the value of this, and actively volunteer and invest their time into our outreach activities.

Bridging the gender gap

It is vital that we as an industry help provide young people of all ages, backgrounds and genders with the right experience and skills ahead of them entering the workforce. It was encouraging to see so many young girls engaged with our discussions today, and actively taking part in our technology demonstrations. In 2017, the UK had the lowest number of women employed in engineering in Europe, at just 8.7% of the workforce. Unfortunately, we see this gender gap represented across all STEM fields. We want women in our industry to play a leading role in encouraging young girls to join the next generation in STEM, by providing mentoring and demonstrating that there are clear paths into a STEM career for girls.

Inspiration from an early age

Last year, surveys showed two-thirds of UK manufacturers are concerned by the lack of skilled staff available, with 72 per cent doubtful that the government is making enough of an effort to encourage and educate young people considering a career in STEM.

By reaching out to children at an early age, we’re building a foundation to allow them to embrace their STEM interests before they reach the age for apprenticeships or graduate schemes. Inspiring more children to develop their talents and go on to pursue a career focused on their interests is a major step towards growing the pool of technically skilled employees in the UK.

Businesses and other organizations within our industry can play a leading role in inspiring the next generation to pursue STEM careers – so why not reach out and get involved today?

About the Author

Managing Director, Columbus UK