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What’s all the fuss about STEM?

STEMNET helps young people understand the amazing careers STEM subjects like maths, physics and technology can lead to. Ashley Tamburello is STEMNET's National STEM Clubs Programme Manager, and in this blog, she explains why STEM matters to you, and how to get involved in and outside the classroom.

Not many people know that some of the most creative, fun, rewarding, best-paid, most flexible, most future-proof and socially important jobs are in STEM. What’s more, careers that didn’t need STEM skills when your parents were looking at careers do now – especially if you one day want to be a leader in your chosen career.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But first you might be wondering…

What is STEM?

STEM stands for:

  • Science: School subjects are: biology, chemistry and physics.
  • Technology: Subjects include: ICT, computer science.
  • Engineering: While not always a subject taught in your school, you’ll need science, technology, and/or maths to do engineering later. Some types of engineering include civil, environmental, or mechanical.
  • Maths.

STEM and apprenticeships

As well as being subjects at school, STEM is important in apprenticeships. Often apprenticeships join up other STEM subjects and support learning on the job – particularly for engineering careers.

It is good advice to hold on to at least one STEM subject through school because it keeps a window open on a huge range of jobs and further study – much more than in the past.

Why is STEM in such hot demand?

You might be a student today, but tomorrow you could be fighting world hunger, curing cancers, protecting businesses from hackers – and so many problems we don’t even know about yet!

But we have a problem. Not enough young people are following STEM subjects to meet the rising need for these skills, as well as to replace people who are retiring. Here are just some of the jobs where skills are in short supply:

  • Crime scene investigator
  • Overseas aid worker
  • Games developer
  • Astronaut
  • Veterinarian
  • Ethical hacker
  • Sports statistician
  • Palaeontologist
  • Underwater archaeologist
  • 3-D designer
  • Digital animator
  • Food chemist
  • Storm chaser
  • Fragrance designer

You said STEM is fun. I don’t really enjoy it – what can I do?

You're not alone and help is out there. A lot of people report that the theory can be "dry" and find that they need practical, real-life or hands-on experiences to bring these subjects to life. This is often the case.

Here at STEMNET, we work with schools and employers to help provide inspiration. Here are some top tips on how you can get going with STEM:

Invite a STEM Ambassador to your school

Volunteer STEM Ambassadors from business and industry bring STEM subjects to life for young people in schools across the UK. You could ask a STEM subject teacher to invite a STEM Ambassador in. We have thousands – so one or more should be available!

Join a STEM club

Find out if your school has a STEM club. Around 80% of secondary schools have at least one active STEM club. Clubs provide fun, hands-on opportunities for students to take their practical learning to another level and get inspired by the potential of STEM.

Clubs join national competitions and take to Twitter to share their activities with one another. Take a look at all the work which is happening in schools to encourage STEM participation for our next generation of problem solvers – I’m sure that you will be just as inspired as I am.

STEM Clubs let you have fun with STEM subjects outside of the classroom, without the testing or textbooks. STEM Clubs solve real world problems, set world records, and investigate exciting aspects of the STEM world.

The things you can do at STEM Club include:

  • Wildlife conservation
  • Gaming
  • Astronomy
  • Model car racing
  • Solar flight challenges
  • Baking with science
  • Robotics
  • Fashion technology
  • Mathematical puzzles
  • LEGO mindstorm computing

Set up a STEM Club!

If your school doesn’t have a club and you aren’t confident about asking to set one up (yes, students can set up their own!) you can show the STEM Clubs website to your teacher.

Talk to your teacher about leading a pre-organised STEM Club like:

  • Code Club
  • Young Engineers
  • First Lego League
  • Greenpower
  • TechFuture Girls
  • F1 in Schools

Thanks Ashley! So you see, there’s plenty you can do to get a taste for STEM and start what could a fun (and very well paid!) career today. Find out more about where STEM can take you here on the Success at School site.

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