By Ozak Esu
Last month, I voluntarily participated in a Careers Evening at King Edward VI Handsworth School for Girls, a selective girls’ school forming part of the King Edward Foundation. The event was targeted at students in years 11-13 and their parents, to provide them with up-to-date information on career options that are currently available as well as the subjects they need to be taking to be on the path to qualify for such roles. Representatives from various industries, organisations and institutions were in attendance, with a huge STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) presence, which was very nice to see. I met students who were very sure about what they wanted to study after school and a couple who were undecided. I also met some who knew they wanted to pursue a career in Engineering but have a difficult time deciding which discipline of Engineering to specialise in.
My presentation titled “Roadmap to Engineering Consultancy: My Academic and Career Journey” gave an overview of my personal experience whilst studying Electronic and Electrical Engineering at Undergraduate and PhD level. I talked about why I chose the discipline, the exciting projects I got involved in, why I chose to go to University and not to do an apprenticeship, my role at Cundall, why I chose to work in Engineering Consultancy, and the types of projects I am involved in this early in my career. The reception was tremendous, with students asking questions and itching to know more information about pursuing a career in Electronic and Electrical Engineering, and Building Services Engineering. I was joined by Belinda Morgan, Building Services Partner at Cundall, her support at the event contributed to its success as we were able to offer four very keen students work experience opportunities at our Birmingham office; something I could not have done myself. The excitement on their faces was truly satisfying and very rewarding.
I found out about the event through STEMNET. I am a STEM Ambassador and have been for four years now. It’s a voluntary opportunity to meet with young people and encourage them to choose subjects and pursue careers in STEM. Some of the voluntary opportunities involve working with teachers to improve their teaching of STEM related subjects by including real life examples. For example, showing teachers how I use area calculations and basic physics principles in order to calculate the maximum energy demand of a building which would help answer student questions such as, “What is the point of learning this?”
According to CaSE ‘Improving Diversity in STEM’ report in May 2014, the UK has an estimated annual shortfall, in domestic supply of about 40,000 new STEM skilled workers. Furthermore, the number of graduates and apprentices in the engineering discipline alone needs to be doubled by 2020 to meet the demand. The number of pupils selecting STEM related subjects at A-Level has increased by 2% through initiatives like STEMNET, however it is still an uphill struggle to keep up with demand. Meeting this demand will not be possible without improving diversity in STEM. According to the report, at present, 8% of British Engineers and 4% of engineering apprentices are women plus there is a 52% gap between state and selective school in single science uptake. The report also says that Black and Minority Ethnicity men are 28% less likely to work in STEM than White men, which in most cases, is due to a lack of awareness about where STEM related careers can take them. Also, sometimes, it’s the absence of a real life relatable example or story/role model to emulate which needs to be addressed. There is also the other reason which is non-interest in STEM, for which not much can be done.
I strongly believe that sharing my personal experience, successes, failures, mistakes and ambitions could help young people make more constructive decisions on whether or not to pursue careers in STEM. Aside from being a satisfying experience, being involved in STEMNET helps me build personal and professional skills, such as, communicating with a varied audience (non-specialist – students and specialist – teachers), networking, organising, and planning. It also helps to develop ones confidence in public speaking and their technical knowledge.
I recommend you give STEM volunteering a go! The University of Birmingham manages the STEMNET Network in the Birmingham & Solihull area and you can find out more information here. For other parts of the country, simply visit here to find out more information on becoming a STEM Ambassador.
Find out more about Cundall – http://www.cundall.com/