It is a question vexing some of the greatest minds in education today: How do you inspire young people to take an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths – the so-called STEAM subjects?
And, just as importantly, how do you then convince them to pursue a career in those areas?
What exactly is STEAM education?
STEAM has grown out of STEM, an integrated approach to Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. STEM is about using maths and science to solve real-world challenges and problems. STEM really is at the core of everything.
The STEM movement is addressing the way education needs to change in order to enable an integrated curriculum of learning. Science, Maths, Technology and Engineering are incapable of solving the real world issues on a standalone basis, they have to be understood in an integrated way.
Why STEM and STEAM?
The A which turns STEM into STEAM comes from Arts and I wholly support this addition to the framework.
Leonardo Da Vinci worked within the realms of this merger even in Renaissance Italy and Steve Jobs famously brought technological innovations to life through impeccable design – beautiful computers, groundbreaking animated movies, the revolutionary iPod and the even more revolutionary iPhone.
Art and science go hand in hand. As Steven Ross Pomeroy, Editor of Real Clear Science points out, “Nobel laureates in the sciences are seventeen times likelier than the average scientist to be a painter, twelve times as likely to be a poet, and four times as likely to be a musician.”
We must engage students in the STEAM disciplines and encourage them to combine technical knowledge and skills with the creativity that leads to innovative ideas. In turn these ideas give the arts new technologies, music new instruments, farmers new machines, and our businesses a competitive advantage.
Unless we continue building the STEAM pipeline, each profession suffers.
A deep problem
Many developed economies around the world are facing both an overall shortage of STEAM skills and an imbalance of who has those skills. Workforces are overwhelmingly dominated by men reaching retirement age, and there is a shortfall in the number of skilled people coming through to replace them.
The STEAM skills shortage is particularly acute in the UK.
EngineeringUK predicts an annual shortfall of 110,000 skilled people every year. The industry will need to fill 203,000 jobs requiring STEAM skills every year between 2018 and 2024.
As it stands, only half the required people will be available. Successfully filling such a huge gap in the long run will only happen if tomorrow’s engineers are inspired at school today.
EngineeringUK’s study also shows that although 50% of 14 to 16-year-olds studying GCSE physics in England are girls, this drops to just 16% of engineering and technology degree students and only 8% of engineering apprentices.
So the Industrial Cadets scheme has a hugely important role to play.
Royal seal of approval
After a visit to the Tata Steel plant in Teesside in 2010, HRH The Prince of Wales said he’d like to see manufacturing companies doing more to engage with young people to raise awareness of industry and job opportunities.
Tata Steel responded by launching a pilot project to engage with local schools in North East England. The Prince of Wales suggested the scheme be called ‘Industrial Cadets’ and today that scheme is nationwide and operates as an accreditation program similar to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
Young people aged between 11 and 19 take part in a range of activities organized by employers including site visits, presentations, hands-on team tasks, workshops and project work. They can gain Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum awards based on the number of hours they complete within the scheme.
By July 2018, over 15,000 young people will have ‘graduated’ from Industrial Cadets accredited programs and there is an ambitious plan to graduate 500,000 young people by July 2021.
It is therefore a huge honor to be named an Industrial Cadets Ambassador at this exciting time of growth for the scheme. I have always been an advocate of learning on the job and bringing these experiences into one’s life as early as possible.
The old order of the world was to learn in a classroom all the way to your final university exam and then reach the shop floor with very little practical knowledge.
Industrial Cadets brings the right industry collaborations to young students who can at an early age start to make sense of real world problems and help find real world solutions from day one.
As an Industrial Cadets Ambassador, I am committed to encouraging young people – particularly girls – to embrace the unlimited opportunities that careers in STEAM bring.
Being an Industrial Cadets Ambassador is a privilege because I get to work with young people who, as I have found through Tata Consultancy Services’ own outreach programs, will often inspire me in my own work.
Our workforces are getting younger and their ways of working are so different from the old ways. They are a generation that believes in fast results, change is more important than stability and they are a generation who has grown up with social media. Email is too old fashioned for them.
Their energy, enthusiasm and aspirations are infectious, helping me to keep my own aspirations alive and encouraging me to keep learning. They have the energy to match the pace of change and this keeps me on my toes.
Schemes like TCS’ Digital Explorers and the Industrial Cadets also help open up the minds of young people who may have never previously thought about a STEAM career – particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds whose schools may never previously have had visits from business leaders.
Being an Industrial Cadets Ambassador is also a huge responsibility because, as a mother of a four-year-old girl, getting more young women into STEAM is something very close to my heart.
I find it extremely surprising that there is a shortage of girls and women in STEAM. Having completed my training at an all-girls engineering college, it never occurred to me that this wasn’t a profession for women.
Having given it much thought, I think a big problem is the lack of role models for young girls.
Within TCS we have 100,000 women engineers who bring a vital alternative perspective to the table. The balance of perspectives is critical to solving the real issues ahead of us. Hence my focus is to work towards a level playing field for girls and women and recognize the different strengths needed to make a complete team.
My personal freedom was the foundation that a technical education laid for me. And I would like to give every girl the opportunity to explore and understand the strengths of a career in STEAM.
Industrial Cadets is a powerful tool for making sure that the large numbers of young women who fall away from STEAM disciplines between the ages of 14 and 18 stay engaged.
My focus as an Industrial Cadets Ambassador is to help create a strong pipeline of role models for young students, especially girls, and bring the right industrial partnerships to enable the best work experience at an early age so that they develop the passion and understanding needed to hit the ground running as the STEAM professionals of tomorrow.