I Wish, DCU, Accenture and BITCI highlight the challenges and opportunities facing STEM education in Ireland

Business in the Community 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. These are the fifth annual Wish showcases, which takes place across four days in Dublin and Cork next February, and DCU’s ‘A World of Opportunities’; a landmark STEM careers guide for parents, teachers and students.

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.

Key findings include:

  • 59% of girls say they don’t know enough about STEM
  • 93% of teachers say self-belief in girls’ own ability is a major challenge to STEM promotion in schools
  • 90% of teachers want to see workshops for girls to enhance resilience and confidence
  • The more STEM-related events a girl attends, the more likely she is to choose STEM subjects to Leaving Cert level and beyond.

Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary 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, DCU’s ‘World of Opportunities’ careers guide addresses this knowledge gap and will hopefully inspire students across the board to appreciate the exciting options open to them within the STEM field.”

“Business has a fundamental role in education. Skills development, the promotion of scientific and technical disciplines, better connecting employment programmes to secure talent acquisition and promoting greater social inclusion, this approach is critical to business growth, innovation and resilience. Business in the Community Ireland enables business to play this role nationwide in unique public-private alliances connecting business and education. It is imperative for business to look at the continuum of education and employment as a competitiveness factor for Ireland in the medium and long-term.” Tomás Sercovich, CEO Business in the Community Ireland  

Caroline O’Driscoll, co-founder of I Wish, says: ‘We can now demonstrate definitively that the more a girl is exposed to extra curricular 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.”

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