A new classroom programme called Futurewize aims to inspire Junior Cycle students to consider new career possibilities, by focusing on STEM subjects and also bridging the gender gap.
Designed by Junior Achievement Ireland (JAI) and developed for delivery by volunteers in industry, the Futurewize programme aims to inspire a new generation to discover rewarding career possibilities through STEM subjects like science, technology, engineering and maths.
The programme is jointly sponsored by Science Foundation Ireland and industry partner Fidelity Investments.
The new programme coincides with the 20th anniversary of the founding of JAI.
‘An important part of this is that students meet and engage with positive role models from industry who can provide them with insight into what it might be like to work in science, technology, or engineering related jobs and businesses’
– DR AOIBHINN NÍ SHÚILLEABHÁIN
Between 2016 and 2017, more than 2,000 students will complete Futurewize with 80 trained business volunteers from Fidelity Investments and other volunteer companies.
Working with the 13-15-year-olds in their own classrooms once a week for five weeks, Futurewize volunteers will serve to highlight the importance and relevance of STEM subjects and their links to a huge range of potential career pathways.
Specially trained volunteers will act as role models from the world of work by sharing their own real-life experiences as they work through the Futurewize modules. These will map the four strands of the new curriculum: Earth and Space, Chemical World, Physical World and Biological World.
Linking each module to varied careers and fields of study is a core design principle, as is providing extended learning opportunities. Students will get take-home materials so that other family members can be involved in exploring career options and discussing the relevance of STEM skills.
“Over 150 businesses release 3,000 business volunteers from across a range of industries to facilitate JAI programmes each year, to complement the work of families and teachers in inspiring and motivating young people to maximise their potential,” said JAI CEO Helen Raftery.
“Futurewize is a great addition to the menu of options we offer our partner schools and businesses, all of which see the educational benefits of industry-education engagement.
Bridging the gender gap
A key focus of Futurewize is to bridge the existing gender gap by encouraging girls to pursue further education and careers in science, technology, engineering and maths related fields.
The Futurewize (STEM skills) programme will have 60pc female participation levels on the course.
School partners on the Futurewize programme are based across the country in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Galway and the border counties.
Research has identified that “fitting in” is the most significant factor influencing a student’s choice on what to do after school.
Futurewize will help to excite students about STEM, showing them what career opportunities are possible and encouraging them to look beyond stereotypes to prepare for future jobs.
“We know that early STEM education, particularly for girls, is critical in influencing the career choices that students will make, helping to bridge the gender gap in STEM related roles,” said Steve Ashmore, head of technology services at Fidelity Investments.
“Fidelity Investments has had a long-standing relationship with JAI and as such, we know the really positive impact and important contribution our employees are making by supporting enterprise education in our local communities.”
By seeing the relevance of science and technology in their everyday lives, students can begin to see where they fit into these diverse and exciting fields.
“An important part of this is that students meet and engage with positive role models from industry who can provide them with insight into what it might be like to work in science, technology, or engineering related jobs and businesses,” said Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, assistant professor in the UCD School of Mathematics and Statistics.