Thursday, 1 August 2019

Inspiring Young People Into STEM - Why Is It Important?

About Harry Bainbridge

Organisation: Heathrow
Your Profession: Education and Skills Manager
About Yourself: Harry joined Heathrow in 2018, starting in Economic Development and moving to the Education and Skills team in early 2019. Prior to this, Harry worked in sustainability and corporate social responsibility for a multinational FTSE100 company. 
Your Organisation's Twitter Handle: @YourHeathrow

Tell us why you think it is important in today's world, to inspire young people into STEM and where applicable, why you and or your organisation gets involved and what you get out of it. 

"With huge strides in technological innovation in recent years, STEM is a growing sector, not least at Heathrow where we have embraced driverless vehicles, biometrics trials and other innovative solutions to make every journey better for our passengers. As the sector grows, so too will the job prospects for young people. It is important to engage with schools now, as even from an early age, young people are already forming their own perceptions about STEM careers and whether it's the right career path. 

Every year, Heathrow delivers the Primary and Secondary School Challenges to local schools. Both programmes are heavily focussed on STEM. In the Primary School Challenge, Year 6 students learn how coding is used in cargo operations. In the Secondary School Challenge, Year 8's learn about the airport's driverless electric vehicle technology used to drive the Heathrow POD's, which transport passengers between Terminal 5 and car parking. The programme teaches young people about the range of STEM-related careers at the airport and is supported by Heathrow colleagues. 

Heathrow has committed to doubling the number of apprenticeships to 10,000 and creating tens of thousands of new jobs with expansion. This will give local communities the potential to end local youth unemployment. Many of these opportunities will be in STEM, to support the construction of an airport that is fit for the future. Roles such as engineers, data analysts, and construction workers will be key. 

We are currently designing a new suite of educational outreach initiatives, to increase awareness of the opportunities at Heathrow and to build a pipeline of local skills." 

In relation to the above question, in your experience, what is getting better or worse and what in your view, are the barriers to sustained success and what do you see as the best way forward? 

"Whilst still a challenge, preconceptions of STEM are slowly improving, as is diversity in the sector, but there is still a long way to go. It is not just students - many teachers have limited knowledge of STEM careers and it is vital that we engage with them to improve perceptions and dispel myths, to ensure that young people are getting the best advice. Parents arguably have the biggest impact on young people, but they often have strong biases towards or against certain careers. If we don't seek to challenge and influence these, it will be difficult for the industry to have an impact on young people. 

We are currently developing a World of Work programme to give work experience to people of all ages. Through this programme, we are keen to demonstrate the diverse range of careers at the airport by giving them a taste of different areas of the business from construction to sustainability. In doing so, we will help to equip young people with the skills needed to succeed in a role they are excited by or passionate about. We are partnering with organisations such as SATRO to make this happen, and will include school activities, teacher resources and other experiences to get young people interested in STEM and careers at Heathrow.

By engaging with young people, teachers and parents, we can ensure that those who want to can build an exciting career at Heathrow." 

- Harry Bainbridge

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