Monday, April 15, 2024

Businesses urged to support schools in inspiring the next generation of engineers

A South Derbyshire-led STEM education project believes businesses are key in supporting local schools to help the next generation of engineers.

Holly Davies, who runs science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education workshops through STEM Venturi, based in Hilton, is appealing for help to build greater links between businesses and schools to bridge the UK’s digital skills gap.

It is estimated that the current digital skills gap is costing the UK economy as much as £63 billion a year in potential GDP with only 61% of the active population in the UK having digital skills compared to 69.4% in the US. A recent Learning and Work Institute report also states the number of young people taking IT subjects at GCSE has dropped 40% since 2015 resulting in the UK heading towards a digital skills shortage ‘disaster’.

A former aerospace engineer herself Holly is now looking for up to 10 businesses who are prepared to fund interactive STEM workshops that will help Midlands schools to boost their digital skills offer. These could be creating weather stations, wildlife trackers or ground temperature monitors in forest school sessions or helping to code music apps and fitness trackers to inspire children’s digital creativity and coding.

The aim is to help build vital skills for youngsters to promote computing and wider creativity skills while showing them how skills they build through hobbies, such as gaming and lego, could actually create career opportunities going forward.

Holly, who already runs a variety of in school and after school activities across Burton and South Derbyshire, said: “If we are to bridge the skills gap we need to start by inspiring the next generation to understand the possibilities.

“STEM is not only important for children who have a passion for engineering and technology but also in helping to encourage creativity and exploration to show youngsters that anything is possible.

“It may be that youngsters find they have an interest in coding, racing remote control cars or building robots. What they don’t then understand is that these interests could go on to create rewarding jobs later on such as designing 3D video games or building robots to solve problems for large manufacturing firms.

“If we are to inspire change then we need to be introducing new opportunities and that is where I think employers can help by bridging that gap between what schools are teaching and how that can be applied to a future career.”

STEM Venturi is looking for businesses to donate time and funds to support schools to upskill between 30 and 120 pupils at a time. The sessions can be tailored around the business to provide a valuable insight into future careers in that sector with the aim being to build closer links between schools and businesses to provide the skills needed to bridge the digital skills gap.

Rachel Edwards, lead teacher at the Design Technology Department in Windsor Park CE Middle School, Uttoxeter, said it was important that experts were brought in to support teachers in delivering these ‘invaluable’ skills for young people.

She said: “STEM skills are crucial for preparing students for the challenges and opportunities of the world of work. Being able to have external providers in, like STEM Venturi, to showcase these skills is invaluable. In a recent 3D printing workshop run by the STEM Venturi team our key stage 3 students left knowing a lot more about the additive manufacturing process and all of the possibilities that this technology can provide.”

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