With many countries across Europe facing a skills shortage in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) field, governments, educators and businesses are looking for new and creative ways to inspire young people to consider a STEM career path.
Scotland’s national skills agency, Skills Development Scotland (SDS), has developed a successful initiative to bring STEM careers to life for students and to bridge the gap between industry and education. Here, SDS talks about its successful 'My World of Work Live!' initiative and offers the best advice for those looking to engage and encourage young people and educators to focus on STEM.
Within Europe, Scotland has a strong reputation across a range of STEM industries, including life sciences, chemical sciences, engineering and digital. However, 45 per cent of employers currently face difficulties recruiting staff with STEM skills, and 59 per cent expect difficulty in the next three years. Women, ethnic minority groups and those with additional support needs are also all under-represented in STEM-related roles.
At SDS, we developed My World of Work Live! to help prepare Scotland’s young people to become the STEM leaders of tomorrow, and to ensure our STEM industries continue to deliver economic opportunities for everyone to flourish. The initiative engages students and teachers directly with hands-on events and activities, inspiring learners to develop an interest in STEM and supporting educators to better focus on STEM in the classroom. It also supports the work of our dedicated Careers Advisers in schools, centres and community venues.
The success of 'My World of Work Live!' so far has been fantastic. Last year, 96 per cent of students involved said they are now more likely to think about studying science subjects or technology at school, and 92 per cent said they are more likely to look for more information about careers and jobs in science and technology. We believe this success is down to a few important ingredients, which make 'My World of Work Live!' a unique initiative.
Make activities fun and hands-on
Every 'My World of Work Live!' experience is about hands-on learning – so that’s building, making and designing. Our interactive exhibits and activities all make the best use of the latest technology to engage and inspire, such as our Minecraft Careers World and our award-winning Virtual Reality careers application. Our innovative Space Junk activity uses LEGO® MINDSTORMS robots to simulate the orbital motion of a satellite, and the young people must avoid space debris and bring their satellite safely back home.
We always aim to ensure our activities speak directly to our core audience of ten-to-15-year-olds, and they are all delivered in locations where young people can experience the real world of STEM, such as the Glasgow Science Centre and the Digital Studio and Careers Lab at the SDS Careers Centre in Inverness.
This combination helps to bring STEM out of the classroom and into real life and helps young people, parents, carers and teachers understand the breadth of opportunity STEM careers offer and the variety of pathways into STEM industries. The young people develop their career management skills and make links between the world of work and what they’re learning in the classroom.
Get teachers and parents involved
Understanding and supporting parents, carers and teachers as key influencers of young people who are making decisions about their future is an integral part of our programme.
Participating teachers can access a wealth of resources on the My World of Work website, to ensure the learning can continue after their visit. We also offer continuing professional development for teachers, and many of those who have accessed these opportunities have reported that 'My World of Work Live!' helped their understanding of STEM jobs and what they involve. A total of 99% of teachers involved have also stated that 'My World of Work Live!' is likely to increase pupils’ enthusiasm for STEM-related lessons.
After attending a 'My World of Work Live!' event, one teacher commented: 'These experiences are worth hours spent in the classroom.' While a parent of one of the students involved commented: 'It makes these careers more accessible at an earlier age; it’s a fabulous thing.'
Build strong industry partnerships
The team behind 'My World of Work Live!' have a passion for industry, education and learning, but the success of the initiative is only possible thanks to the strong partnerships we have developed.
We work with a range of partners who share our goals and our delivery approach, and this opens up opportunities to engage with young people in ways they are familiar with. Our Virtual Reality careers app, for example, is a result of a partnership with CITB, Heriot-Watt University and Animmersion, while out Minecraft Careers World was developed in conjunction with education consultancy Immersive Minds. We are also the first to have LEGO® Education Innovation studio status in Scotland.
All of these collaborations ensure we maintain the right mix of educational and industry expertise to make our range of activities and events as effective as can be.