Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Inspiring Young People Into STEM - Why Is It Important?

About Simon Ash 

Organisation: Guildford Borough Council 
Your Profession: Economic Development Officer 
About Yourself: 14 years in banking, 12 years of running small businesses and 6 months fundraising led to a stimulating new role in economic development for Guildford Borough Council, which encompasses a huge range of activity from town centre management to skills development and strategic planning. 
Your LinkedIn Profile: Simon Ash
Your Twitter handle: @SimonAsh6

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. 

"There is no area of life untouched by STEM: if you do life, you do science! The best preparation for success is understanding the role of creative thinking and challenging received opinion. A young person who resists being categorised will not be limited by conventional roles and opportunities. 

In Guildford, we value the culture of creativity that is reflected across the spectrum of STEM-related organisations, from digital arts to medical research. We also enjoy a great reputation in the creative arts, and believe in breaking down barriers between what have conventionally been two distinct worlds. A computer game developer, for example, might be both highly artistic and technically expert. 

Co-operation across and between industries is the key to unlocking opportunity, and being ready to think differently is critical. 

Guildford Borough Council's work in encouraging STEM awareness forms part of a skills agenda, responding to future challenges in a high-skill economy, and maintaining Guildford's success in a highly competitive environment. 

Starting with the Innovate Guildford Science and Arts Festival (running annually since 2016) to engage young people with possibilities for their future. In 2017, Guildford Borough Council also introduced the Innovation Awards to celebrate the borough's best innovations.

We aim to support improved work experience options, and champion employment-based training including apprenticeships. We have recently undertaken a Skills Survey of local businesses with the aim of exploring issues facing employers and informing our conversations with educators including schools, colleges and universities. We are looking at how an Education Business Partnership might complement the work of other groups including the Surrey Employment Skills Board and the Local Enterprise Partnership's Enterprise Adviser network, as well as SATRO of course."

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? 

"In no particular order, I see the following as putting STEM skills development under pressure: 

  • Crowded Curriculum 
  • Education Funding 
  • Lack of apparent long-term strategic investment and vision 
  • Strong focus on examination success above practical skills and a balanced education 
However, the following opportunities show promise for the future if captured and exploited: 
  • Apprenticeship expansion (levy-funded) and available at multiple levels including in some non-traditional industries 
  • Education Business Partnerships to help align educational offering and employment needs 
  • More focused work experience options to benefit the particular interest of students 
  • An expansion of mentoring and other meaningful interactions between school students and entrepreneurs/business people 

- Simon Ash, Guildford Borough Council 

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