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More girls encouraged to become the next generation of scientists and engineers

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Encouraging more girls to follow careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) will help Wales lead the way in tackling some of the major global challenges facing society, Minister for the Economy, Vaughan Gething has said.

To mark the annual International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the Minister said Wales needs more young girls to follow careers in STEM if the country is to realise its full economic potential, and to realise its ambition of becoming a truly globally responsible nation.

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Careers in science, technology, engineering and maths has never been more important to finding the solutions to major global problems facing society.

Inspirational women across Wales have played key roles in tackling fundamental challenges faced by our society, from recovering from COVID-19 to combatting climate change.

To mark the annual International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the Minister said encouraging far more women and girls to follow paths into careers in STEM is now more crucial than ever.

The Minister said the Cabinet is fully committed to making that happen.

The Welsh Government has provided funding for programmes specifically focused at girls, with the aim of increasing the numbers from secondary schools engaging with STEM industries.

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Technocamps Girls into STEM (GiST) is one of the programmes, which aims to increase the number of inspirational role models with very different careers, showcasing some of the traditional and less known roles that can be undertaken with a background in STEM – and normalising women in STEM.

The Engineering Education Scheme Wales (EESW) programme trialled a virtual Girls into STEM session in collaboration with Viridor, where pupils explored local industry, looking at what happens to the household waste we generate, exploring the concepts of sustainable engineering and future challenges. They also gave the pupils a careers session, allowing them to explore the five main avenues of engineering (Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, Chemical and Software) and investigated just how important engineers will be in tackling the issues of sustainability for future generations.

Minister for Economy, Vaughan Gething, who has Cabinet-level responsibility for science in the Welsh Government, said: “The Welsh Government is determined to increase the number of women working in STEM, because it’s good for our society and for our economy. Evidence tells us that a diverse workforce increases profitability, productivity and creativity across industry.

“Our Programme for Government looks to celebrate diversity and move to eliminate inequality in all of its forms. This includes increasing diversity in STEM by seeking out participation from underrepresented groups, in order to build and develop a world in which studying and working in science are open to all.

“We need to increase the flow of STEM skills from schools into the Welsh economy, and ensure that more girls access STEM related careers and further learning. STEM subjects are an essential area of education, and they continue to form an integral part of the Curriculum for Wales, preparing learners for study, employment and life in the 21st century.”

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Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt said: “As we all know the Covid-19 pandemic has re-emphasised the vitally important role science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) play in the world and I am grateful to the exceptional STEM professionals who have led the fight against Covid-19.

It’s vitally important that on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science we increase the visibility, the prestige and appeal of science for all. By sharing stories of STEM female role models during the pandemic, we can hopefully inspire and motivate more women and girls to study STEM, setting them on a path to an extremely rewarding career.”

As Apprenticeship Week comes to a close, an apprenticeship unlocked the door to a career change in engineering for Tiffany Evans from Neath. Wales is leading the way in terms of the enrolments on STEM apprenticeships. Over half of STEM apprenticeships enrolments are women, 52% that compares to 44% in England, 9% in Scotland and 3% in Northern Ireland.

Tiffany was working in a contact centre when she realised she wanted to change career and become an engineer. The 27-year-old wanted to learn new skills to advance her career, however she wasn’t sure if she could financially afford to go back to student life.

Tiffany was made aware that she could pursue a career as a telecoms engineer for Openreach through an apprenticeship: meaning she could develop new skills whilst still earning.

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Having completed her apprenticeship last year, Tiffany is now working full time as an Openreach telecoms engineer, putting the skills she learned during her apprenticeship in to practice.

Tiffany, said: “My day-to-day job now involves me visiting customers and fixing faults or improving their broadband capabilities. It’s like a puzzle, you have to find the fault in miles and miles of cable but that’s what keeps it interesting – no day is the same. If I had to give advice to anyone it would be to follow your gut and ask questions. I’d never have had this opportunity if I had ignored that niggling feeling that told me my old job wasn’t right for me.”

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