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Welsh schoolgirls given insight into STEM careers

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250 female pupils from schools across southwest Wales have been offered taster sessions in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects as part of University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s Girls into IT programme.

The initiative was set up in response to research by the WISE Campaign which highlighted that in 2021, female IT professionals made up only 21% of the UK’s total Technology workforce, and female Engineers only 12.5%, showing the need for additional encouragement of women and girls into these fields.

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Because pathways to STEM careers begin with GCSE and A-Level choices, University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) recognises the need to inspire girls before they make their subject choices. As well as running residential courses for Engineering, Construction and Environmental subjects in collaboration with Headstart Cymru, UWTSD set up the Girls into IT programme to bring youngsters into the University with a specific focus on IT and STEM. 

The aim of the taster sessions is to improve the perception that STEM subjects are ‘difficult’ or ‘inaccessible’ to girls, and to provide a valuable insight into career pathways and working environments before pupils make their GCSE subject choices.

At the first of these sessions, UWTSD welcomed fifty pupils from Cefn Hengoed and Dylan Thomas Schools to its Swansea SA1 Waterfront Campus, where the pupils took part in workshops on Cybersecurity and Games Design and heard from female academics about their careers in IT, Research and Technology.

50 pupils from Cefn Hengoed and Dylan Thomas Schools took part in the sessions (Image: UWTSD)

Yolanda Guerrero, Innovation Fellow from UWTSD’s Assistive Technologies Innovation Centre (ATIC) who was instrumental in organising the event, also provided an introduction to the world of 3D Printing followed by an inspiring talk from Dr Nitheesh Kaliyamurthy, Senior Lecturer at UWTSD’s School of Applied Computing, which helped dispel some myths surrounding the IT profession.

The University’s Widening Access and Student Recruitment teams work in conjunction to provide activities for school- and college-age children across Wales, aiming to engage young people, help them realise their full potential and make informed decisions about their future.

Samantha Bowen, Widening Access Manager, says: “This exciting series of events provides young people with role models and raises awareness of a wide range of STEM opportunities at a key point in their educational journey.

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“The number of attendees now considering a career in STEM when they had not previously, and being excited by the prospect of such a career, shows the real need for days like this. These events reinforce the message that females are vital for future technology and innovation solutions and can be highly successful in STEM – we want to see more girls transition from school to STEM courses and jobs.”

UWTSD’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon FREng has recently become a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and is actively involved in the campaign.

She says: “The University places unequivocal importance on empowering and enabling groups of diverse and underrepresented people to enter higher education. This is especially true in STEM subjects, where the work done by the University is palpable and ongoing.

“As an engineer, I am particularly keen to ensure that women of all ages have the help and support needed to see themselves as the problem solvers of the future, and to see this university as the vehicle to achieve their dreams.”

Staff from UWTSD at the sessions (Image: UWTSD)

Dr Nitheesh Kaliyamurthy adds: “Both staff and students organise diverse activities using all of the resources at our disposal during these events, to show participants the opportunities and career paths available and clarify myths surrounding STEM. We look forward to inspiring our next cohort of pupils and changing behaviour to encourage more girls to study IT and Technology focused subjects.”

There has been a positive response from pupils so far. Sky, from Dylan Thomas School, says: “I really enjoyed doing the tasks to find out more about the world of Tech. Before today I never thought I could study or work in IT or technology, but it’s made me think I can and believe in myself.”

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50 pupils from Cefn Hengoed and Dylan Thomas Schools took part in the sessions (Image: UWTSD)

Lily from Cefn Hengoed School echoed this, adding: “This event has really changed my thinking about STEM. I needed to hear more about the jobs and what people do, and now I’ve been here and heard about some pathways, I feel encouraged. I will now definitely think about choosing IT or Computing for GCSE which I wasn’t thinking about before.”

Girls Into IT events are organised by University of Wales Trinity Saint David and feature female guest lecturers from across the University, with support from Headstart Cymru. The next event takes place in November where pupils from Cefn Saeson Comprehensive School will visit Swansea SA1 Waterfront Campus for an interactive day of activities and explore the University’s state-of-the-art technology.

(Lead image: UWTSD)

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