Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Inspiring Young People Into STEM - Why Is It Important?

About Lynn Willacy

Lynn Willacy

Organisation: Air Products 

Profession: Community & STEM Ambassador 

About Lynn: Lynn joined Air Products in May 2000. Now, as the Community and STEM Ambassador, Lynn leads programmes supporting STEM engagement. Being an advocate of diversity and inclusion, Lynn has been featured in the media discussing the skills shortage and how to encourage students to consider a STEM career. 

Organisation's LinkedIn: Air Products 
Organisation's Twitter: @airproductsuki

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. 

"Air Products is a world leading industrial gas company. The Community & STEM Ambassador for the UK, Lynn Willacy, sees her role as getting young children - from primary school to university - excited about Science and Engineering, ultimately encouraging them to choose a STEM career, and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.

In doing this, we also address the need to encourage more women to study engineering; showing girls of all ages that engineering is not just for boys. 

Our network of ambassadors - volunteers from across our business - talk more about the gas industry and Air Products - includes a strong representation of females. 

With this programme we go into schools, free of charge, to do liquid nitrogen demonstrations and talk about Air Products - teaching the children about how gases impact on everyday life. 

This is done on an age-specific basis - some of our ambassadors will go into primary schools while some of our chemical engineers and more technical people will visit secondary schools and colleges. 

Although thrilling experiments have proved an excellent way to get more young people interested in a career in the industry - many of the initiatives Lynn has championed go much more in depth and explain to students the career options available to them. 

At Air Products, we believe that by addressing the gender imbalance, we can tackle the skills gap too. We do this by attending careers fairs to share the opportunities Air Products can offer and hold interview days to help students with specific employability skills. 

We also work with external organisations on specific projects. Colleagues from our Hersham office and some retirees have volunteered and supported the SATRO events for many years. Our links with SATRO have included the sponsorship of TeenTech, Problem Solving Challenges and the World of Energy activity." 

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? 

"As we are moving towards a more digital and technology driven age, where young people are using technology in everyday life, the focus on supporting the need for STEM careers is more important than ever. 

However, what we need to ensure is that all skills continue to be represented, not just the technical skills that a student may find exciting, but those like communication and teamwork that are essential to a successful career. By working with SATRO, we are supporting a broad range of initiatives so that students fully understand the breadth of a STEM career. This type of partnership and the initiatives being undertaken are positive steps towards increasing the uptake of STEM subjects. 

The introduction of Gatsby Benchmarks within schools will encourage teachers to engage with employers more regularly, create relationships between education and industry, enable knowledge sharing and build awareness of career opportunities within STEM." 

- Lynn Willacy, Air Products 

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