Featured Article 22 Jul 2014

STEM professionals play a crucial role in the sustained growth of the Irish economy and it is vital that secondary students in Ireland are equipped with the transferable, mobile skills that are needed in almost every growing sector. When students excel in STEM, they’re laying the groundwork to help Ireland compete for the jobs and industries of the future.

Government-Industry partnership

Smart Futures is a partnership between Government, industry and educators which promotes STEM careers and role models to post-primary students, guidance counsellors and parents. Its three-year strategy was launched by Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, in April this year.

It is coordinated by SFI Discover, the education and public engagement programme of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), in partnership with Engineers Ireland’s STEPS programme, PharmaChem Ireland, the Royal Society of Chemistry, ICT Ireland and the Institute of Physics and is one of the Government’s commitments to address skills needs under the Action Plan for Jobs.

Impacting change at second-level

In 2013, Smart Futures engaged with approximately 28,000 secondary students providing STEM careers talks in schools, outreach events and online competitions. 929 volunteer engineers, scientists and ICT professionals have already been trained to deliver their career story to young students, enabling over 400 schools to receive career talks and reaching more than 15,000 students nationwide in the last academic year alone.  

To-date, over 50 STEM-related organisations including Abbott Ireland, IBM, Boston Scientific, SAP, Allergan and Medtronic have participated in Smart Futures outreach activities, providing staff to talk to students during events such as Science Week, Engineers Week and SciFest.

Benefits to Industry

The Smart Futures Advisory Group, which includes Fujitsu CEO, Regina Moran and Clare Dillon from Microsoft Ireland as members, encourages industry partners from across multiple STEM sectors to work together under the Smart Futures umbrella to better coordinate resources and benefit from free communications training that can help develop staff. 

Participation means industry members are connected with a national programme that is trusted by schools which will assist in addressing their future skills needs. These industry members can avail of comprehensive evaluation to assess the impact of outreach activities and the initiative relieves them of the coordination required to do this on their own. 

Increasing female participation 

The Smart Futures website demonstrates the huge range of career opportunities across the STEM sectors with career stories and video interviews with people working in areas such as cybersecurity, engineering, energy, biotechnology, medical devices, manufacturing, data analytics and much more. 

It works to challenge stereotypes associated with people who work in STEM and in particular seeks opportunities to promote female role models in STEM to help encourage participation by younger female students.

Partnership with the Smart Futures network should be a key objective for any organisation that has a strategic interest in an increase in the quality and availability of STEM graduates in Ireland. By working together we can make far greater impact, resulting in a larger pool of high quality STEM graduates that all sectors will benefit from. 

For more information on how to get involved contact donna.mccabe@sfi.ie or contact Donna McCabe on (01) 6073042.

STEM students image via Shutterstock

 

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