Futurewize to inspire Junior Cycle students to consider STEM careers
11 October 2016
Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, UCD and Emma Kavanagh, second year student at Blessington Community College
A new, classroom-based programme called Futurewize, aims to inspire Junior Cycle students to explore a new world of career possibilities that are opened up through the study of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
In 2016/17, more than 2,000 students will complete Futurewize with 80 trained business volunteers from Fidelity Investments and other volunteer companies. Working with the 13-15 year olds in their own classrooms once a week for five weeks, Futurewize volunteers will serve to highlight the importance and relevance of STEM subjects and their links to a huge range of potential career pathways.
The involvement of industry volunteers working alongside teachers will help students make links between their studies and post-school careers. Specially-trained volunteers will act as role models by sharing their own real-life experiences as they work through the Futurewize modules, which map the four strands of the new curriculum: Earth and Space, Chemical World, Physical World and Biological World.
Linking each module to varied careers and fields of study is a core design principle as is providing extended learning opportunities so that students get take-home materials where other family members can be involved in exploring career options and discussing the relevance of STEM skills.
Bridging the gender gap
A key focus of Futurewize, which will have 60 per cent female participation levels, is bridging the existing gender gap in girls pursuing further education and careers in STEM related fields.
“An important part of this is that students meet and engage with positive role models from industry who can provide them with insight into what it might be like to work in science, technology, or engineering related jobs and businesses,” said Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, sssistant professor in the UCD School of Mathematics and Statistics.
“The JAI programme is also committed to attempting to address the gender gap in students studying STEM subjects and this is something I am passionate about,” she added.
Research has identified that ‘fitting in’ is the most significant factor influencing a student’s choice about what to do after school. Futurewize will help to excite students about STEM, showing them what career opportunities are possible, encouraging them to look beyond stereotypes and to prepare for jobs of the future. By seeing the relevance of science and technology in their everyday lives, students can start to see where they can fit in to these diverse and exciting fields.
“Over 150 businesses release 3,000 business volunteers from across a range of industries to facilitate JAI programmes each year to complement the work of families and teachers in inspiring and motivating young people to maximise their potential,” said JAI chief executive Helen Raftery.
“Futurewize is a great addition to the menu of options we offer our partner schools and businesses, all of which see the educational benefits of industry-education engagement. We were delighted to have input from science teachers and other educational specialists in the development of the programme which will inspire students to reach their full potential and consider the variety of careers available to them in STEM.”
Futurewize is being funded by SFI to align with Smart Futures, the national government-industry programme promoting STEM careers to post-primary students in Ireland. Smart Futures is managed by SFI in partnership with the Engineers Ireland STEPS programme and is supported by bodies such as IBEC, the American Chamber of Commerce, IDA Ireland, Business in the Community and the Institute of Physics.
Smart Futures STEM volunteers deliver approximately 300 free STEM career talks and more than 60 career events per year. These interactions between students and role models are directly reaching 33,000 teenagers annually, helping to ensure they are receiving appropriate, practical and impactful STEM career insights. Over 200 organisations are now engaging with the programme, including companies like IBM, SunLife, HP, Twitter, Abbott Ireland, Novartis, ESB and more.http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2016/10/11/futurewize-junior-cycle-stem-careers/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/FuturewizeBL5Q7062-FEAT-1024x725.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/FuturewizeBL5Q7062-FEAT-300x300.jpgNewseducation,SFI,STEM,STEPS,UCD