A smart approach to educating pupils about careers in Stem
The Smart Futures programme brings volunteers to schools to talk about their degrees and their work, and to give career advice
Smart Futures champion and Dragons’ Den investor Barry O’Sullivan with students Jenna Howe (17) and Donal Ryan (16)
Some students have a clear idea of what career they wish to pursue from very early on in their academic life, but the majority will need some help, guidance and suggestions as to where their future may lead them.
Smart Futures is a collaborative Government-Industry-Education programme managed by SFI promoting science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) careers to secondary school students, parents and teachers.
It involves volunteers from various Stem careers visiting schools to enlighten pupils about their chosen path including what they studied at college, what their job entails and why they would recommend it.
“We really want to promote Stem subjects in our school,” she says. “And have even introduced a new elective programme for transition year students (which I teach) where they can choose to participate in a double period each week where we work on science projects for entry to the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, and Scifest.”
Her transition year chemistry class were visited by several people last year in a bid to help students make up their minds about what they want to do in college.
“We had a visit from two scientists and an engineer,” says Tuttlebee. “They talked about the path they took to get into their jobs, including what subjects they did for Leaving Cert and what college courses they took. They also talked about what they found interesting about their roles and how their careers benefited mankind.
“The students listened very well and asked lots of questions, and afterwards the volunteers spent time talking to individual pupils and distributing some promotional merchandise (such as stickers, notebooks, pens and pencils). They even brought some of their products into the room and passed them around for students to touch. All in all, the event went really well and students found it very inspiring.”
Tuttlebee believes students benefit from the inside knowledge offered by someone other than their teachers.
Routes to jobs
“Many of the students expressed an interest in studying chemistry after the talk, a science which is perceived as difficult by many students,” she says.
“It also showed the students that there is life after school and that there are many different routes to take to get a job. None of the volunteers had initially gone to one of the big universities (UCD or Trinity, for example) but had still found excellent well-paid careers. It is important for students to see that there is a variety of routes to jobs.
“It is also of huge benefit for them to hear other adults talk about careers. And it also helped that there are only 24 students in the class which was a nice number as the students weren’t too intimidated to ask questions – so I will definitely be organising more talks for two other TY groups in the new year.”
Since 2013, Smart Futures has engaged more than 74,000 secondary students through school visits and outreach engagements such as Stem careers roadshows and career fairs.
- Stem volunteers donated an estimated 5,000 hours to the programme in 2014.
- Smart Futures volunteers visited almost 300 secondary schools.
- Stem career options can be found in sectors such as food and sport science, space research, cybersecurity, engineering, energy, biotechnology and medical devices both in Ireland and internationally.
- More than 50 partners from industry and education are involved in delivering Smart Futures.
- 62 per cent of students rate fitting in as the greatest factor influencing their third-level course choices – meeting Stem role models can break negative stereotypes and inspire young people.
Teachers can register for a free visit to their school:
- To request a visit from a scientist, technologist or mathematician, visit SmartFutures.ie
- To request a visit from an engineer, visit steps.ie
For more information see SmartFutures.ie