Minister Mitchell O’Connor Launches two Innovative Initiatives in STEM Education in Ireland
Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, today launched two important initiatives for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education in Ireland. The first is DCU’s ‘A World of Opportunities’; a landmark STEM careers guide for parents, teachers and students. In partnership the Minister launched the fifth annual I Wish showcases, which takes place across four days in Dublin and Cork next February. To mark with the occasion, I Wish has released its annual survey of more than 2,200 Transition Year students, which shows secondary school girls and their teachers still don’t know enough about STEM subjects and the careers that can follow.
Minister Mitchell O’Connor TD said, “I am delighted to be here this morning to launch these innovative STEM initiatives. The need to increase gender diversity in STEM has been widely recognised and I Wish’s research once again highlights the challenge we face to help female students build confidence in this area at second level. We need to make more young people aware of the vast learning opportunities and potential careers that exist in STEM. Dublin City University’s “World of Opportunities” careers guide addresses this knowledge gap and will hopefully inspire students across the board to consider the exciting options open to them within the STEM field. What is so enlightening about this morning is the joined up thinking between I Wish, DCU, Accenture and the support from Business in the Community Ireland (BITC) in highlighting the challenges and opportunities facing STEM education in Ireland”
Caroline O’Driscoll, co-founder of I Wish, says: ‘We can now demonstrate definitively that the more a girl is exposed to extracurricular STEM events, the more likely she is to take on related Leaving Cert subjects and college courses. Information and confidence are also key however. We must continuously showcase the opportunities through STEM and build girls confidence in their ability to improve people’s lives through STEM. We need to act now to make a difference.”
Eleven thousand Transition Year girls have already experienced the I Wish showcase. This year, another six thousand will be introduced to the vast number of opportunities STEM has to offer.
Partnering in this event and as a leader in STEM education both nationally and internationally Dublin City University today launches an essential guide for parents, teachers and students showcasing the diverse, exciting range of STEM careers now available
DCU’s ‘A World of Opportunities’ highlights the varying pathways to a successful career in STEM and will ultimately help students to make informed choices when it comes to third level education.
DCU President, Prof. Brian MacCraith says: “Our ‘World of Opportunities’ publication is designed to explain, in accessible language, the exciting new careers available to those with STEM qualifications. The first purpose of the publication is to help parents and students to understand the exciting new career opportunities that are available in the world of work through having a STEM qualification. The task of selecting a career path in STEM areas can be somewhat daunting to those not familiar with new and evolving terminology. The second purpose of our publication is to highlight, through real examples, female role models in exciting STEM careers. Overall, our aim is to enhance the ‘STEM pipeline’ in Ireland and to move the dial on the gender imbalance issue”.
Alastair Blair, country managing director at Accenture in Ireland, said: “Traditionally Ireland has had access to deep skills and the availability of a young, highly educated and exceptionally adaptable workforce. This has allowed our country to respond and adapt rapidly to the extraordinary pace of change taking place around us. We need to work as a collective across government, academia and industry to further accelerate a profound change to our education system and to double down on areas such as STEM at a time when there is an ever increasing demand for a strong, diverse pipeline of skills. Today’s launch is a manifestation of what is possible. We now need to translate the intent of today into the actions of tomorrow.”
The Department’s STEM Education Policy Statement 2017–2026, published in November 2017, sets out the ambitious goals and actions required to achieve and improve the STEM education experience and outcomes for all learners. In realising Ireland’s aim to have the best education and training service in Europe within a decade, we must provide the most effective and engaging teaching, learning and assessment environment for STEM education at all levels.
Increasing the numbers of females in STEM is a key action in the STEM Education Implementation Plan There is a need to attract more females into STEM subjects at school level and ensure that they engage in STEM courses at higher or further education. There is also a need for focus on retention as there is a higher attrition rate for females leaving STEM careers than for males.
The STEM implementation plan builds on a range of reforms and initiatives already underway in STEM, in areas such as curriculum and assessment reform, teacher professional development, embedding digital learning and advances in initial teacher education. This will ensure that we have qualified people with the right skills to attract job opportunities and investment in these sectors. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has forecast that the number of research personnel employed within our knowledge-intensive industries will increase from 25,000 to 40,000 in the next four years. Thus increasing demand for graduates with STEM-related skills and qualifications across different sectors of the economy.