Irish STEM inclusion programme is expanding nationwide

1 Dec 2023

Three students from Lucan Community College graduating from the STEM Passport for Inclusion initiative. Image: Tadhg Nathan

The STEM Passport for Inclusion programme is being scaled up nationwide to reach a further 5,000 students, after 1,250 took part over the past two years.

A programme to help young women from underserved communities find potential career paths in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) fields is scaling up after its initial success.

The STEM Passport for Inclusion initiative was launched two years ago as a way to give young women equal opportunities to access STEM education. The programme is being undertaken by Maynooth University, Microsoft Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and the Department of Education.

So far, 1,250 students have taken part in the programme. The initiative plans to engage with a further 5,000 students and will see participants graduate from one of three partner universities, which are the Atlantic Technological University, Munster Technological University and Maynooth University.

Maynooth said the programme combines a Level 6 NFQ (National Framework of Qualifications), education supports and mentoring from industry role models to help students progress to third-level education and achieve a STEM qualification.

The expansion was announced at a recent graduation ceremony for the programme, where 300 students from 17 DEIS schools in Leinster received a certificate for their participation.

Dr Katriona O’Sullivan, a digital skills lecturer at Maynooth, said the impact of the programme on students has already been “far reaching”.

“Some of them will be the first in their family or school to get a university award and many will not have taken any science, technology or engineering subjects in school,” O’Sullivan said. “We are delighted for them.”

“We currently have 2,000 students from DEIS schools registered in three universities taking the module. Furthermore, the students will have the opportunity to benefit from mentoring from more than 600 mentors from 40 companies across Ireland.”

Earlier this year, a group of transition-year students from Lucan travelled to Microsoft’s campus in Leopardstown to get an accelerated version of the programme. The students engaged with Microsoft’s Dream Space team and learned about subjects such as coding, engineering and maths.

To date, Microsoft has contributed €600,000 to the programme and more than 200 of its staff are actively supporting the STEM Passport initiative.

The STEM Passport programme was featured in a six-part documentary series called Change Makers, which explored university research projects.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic