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The STEM Challenge

Brad Coulson • 27th August

At Words&Pictures we have our very own Trust in Youth Advisory Board. This is where we gather a group of students and give them a live brief from our clients to gain insights like no other to help develop our youth engagement campaigns

Brad Coulson, Business Development and Schools Outreach takes the current issue around the shortage of young people entering careers with STEM skill sets to Beckfoot School

To those in the know, STEM refers to: science, technology, engineering, and maths. These four components are pretty much essential, in fact, necessities in the modern world. From healthcare to travel, agriculture, communications – the list is endless and they all rely on STEM. This is where the problem starts. Currently in the UK we are on the brink of an enormous skills gap, meaning we don’t have enough young minds studying STEM subjects. The knock-on effect of this could be very costly for the economy and a step in the wrong direction. Government statistics show that by 2022 there will be 2.56 million engineering roles to fill which could generate £27 billion a year for engineering companies (that’s £5.4 billion for HMRC). If that’s not an eye opener you can read some more statistics here: http://www.engineeringuk.com/Research/At_a_glance_2015/

One of the most notable facts is the shortage of females studying STEM subjects and working within the engineering sector. Only one in five students currently studying physics is female. This in turn means that the vast majority of people working in engineering are male. There are many theories as to why this is but the most common one is perception. Engineering is perceived as a male industry that’s all about being hands on, which isn’t the case. It’s one of the most varied and exciting industries to work in – that said, one of the highest paid as well.

As a specialist youth engagement communications agency, Words&Pictures see this concern with clarity. It’s an issue that’s affecting all companies, large or small, and thankfully there’s a movement to try and tackle it. Whether inspiring young minds, changing behaviours or raising awareness, we are striving to help our clients promote their messages and educate the future generations. Currently there is no solution to this problem, however, we try to take a logical approach at W&P. This is why we have the ‘Trust in Youth’ advisory board. In layman’s terms we ask the younger generation, why is this? What are your ideas? And what could be done?

To help us research and understand why young students aren’t choosing STEM subjects as their first choice we decided to ask them outright. Earlier in the summer, we went to Beckfoot School in Bingley, West Yorkshire. We were fortunate enough to speak to all 300 Year 8 students and deliver a short presentation on STEM and its importance in the world that we live. We asked them to work in teams of ten to create and deliver a presentation explaining their understanding of STEM, how it relates to their lives, how could they see a career in it, how could they get excited by it, what more could be done..?

After giving the students four weeks to research and create their presentations we returned to the school to see what the shortlisted groups had put together – the results were fascinating. One group created their own pac-man style game using coding software. As you progress through the game you are given a STEM fact and a link where you could find out more information – an excellent way to engage with young people. Another group presented us with facts about YouTube, that it is the main platform for young people to find out about anything – very interesting from a marketing position. One group spoke about taking something they are interested in (in this case football) and showing young people all the aspects of STEM behind the scenes: how the clothes are designed, how the stadiums are built, how the football is made. This in turn helps young people understand that engineering is everywhere. Overall the results were excellent but the common theme was that students feel they need to be educated more on engineering and the different job roles available.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Beckfoot School for allowing us to come in. And most importantly, give a huge credit to all the students for some incredibly innovative presentations. We were blown away by the end results. The voices of these young students have really allowed us to gain a greater understanding of the STEM problem, from which we can now put into practice and help our clients achieve their goals.

I will leave you with a superb video from a presentation created by Year 8 students Lydia, Lauren & Eliza. Enjoy! 

https://vimeo.com/134930010 (if you’re asked for a password, enter W&P)

Brad Coulson

01943 854 800

Words&Pictures (Commercial) Ltd
The Editorial Design Centre
Wharfebank House
Ilkley Road
Leeds
LS21 3JP