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Inspiring the young as a STEM ambassador

July 9, 2018

By Gillian King, VP Europe, Africa, Russia & CIS

In December last year, a representative of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) learning visited Vanguard House, our HQ near Aberdeen, to encourage volunteers to sign up for the STEM Ambassadors Program.  Ambassadors can be from a wide range of STEM related jobs across the UK and offer their time and enthusiasm to engage with young people to inspire them to get excited about STEM subjects.

After an induction at Vanguard House and applying to join the PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups) scheme through police checks, a wealth of opportunities became available to go out into local communities to help groups of both teachers and children out with schools.

My first STEM event was at Findochty Primary School, where I was completely impressed by the head teacher and what she is trying to promote within the school. For the last three years they have held a ‘World at Work’ week to encourage pupils to develop an understanding of the working world, about the different job sectors, enterprises and businesses that are out there. The aim was to stimulate pupils to use their curiosity and creativity to gain knowledge and develop a variety of skills and in the process realise how those skills, both personal and practical, are used in the workplace.

Gillian King - STEM Ambassador

Gillian King 

The pupils weren’t told what I do as a career to challenge gender stereotypes so my first task when I arrived was to get the P1 and P2 pupils to guess.  Answers ranged from astronaut to hotel worker to horse rider!  We spent time learning about the energy industry, where oil and gas comes from and had fun doing experiments on porosity and permeability and making fossils.  I hope they enjoyed my visit, I certainly did!  I also hope that my visit helped with the head teacher’s objectives of broadening the pupil’s horizons and making the connection between their lessons and their futures:  “There are so many opportunities out there, the only limitation to their aspirations is their own imaginations” … maybe we could all learn something from the pupils at Findochty!

My second STEM Ambassador event was a careers fair at Bucksburn Academy. The evening was for academy pupils and their parents to meet people from various industries to help them decide on their chosen career path and get career guidance.  The STEM room was busy all evening, I was with the curator of a microbiology company which manages the National Collection of Industrial Food and Marine Bacteria and a Senior Process Engineer from an oil and gas consultancy firm specialising in field development.  I presented the many opportunities for STEM graduates within the energy industry and my slightly unusual career path from biochemist to receptionist to oil & gas VP!

It’s important to me to try to give something back so my next STEM event is at my old school, Dyce Academy. Volunteering is rewarding and I get a lot out of these events, hopefully the kids do to.  STEM Ambassadors are an important resource for teachers and others engaging with young people. If you feel like inspiring young people to pursue STEM, they are looking for help all the time!

To find out more about the STEM Ambassador program, go to:  https://www.stem.org.uk/stem-ambassadors

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