Futurewize sizes up students’ interest in STEM careers

Futurewize
Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin with Khadidja Ouidah (13), from Assumption Secondary School in Walkinstown

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3 October 2018 | 0

Junior Achievement Ireland has announced plans to grow its successful Futurewize programme up to the end of 2019.

Launched in 2016, the programme aims to inspire Junior Cycle students to explore career possibilities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths.

An evaluation of the first phase of Futurewize showed that 77% of student participants developed interest in studying STEM-related subjects after school, while 99% of participating teachers said they would recommend it to colleagues.

On foot of these encouraging results additional funding was secured from Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Programme.

This year more than 3,500 students from 150 classes will complete the Futurewize programme facilitated by 150 trained volunteers. The programme will to involve no less than 60% female participation levels.

By the end of 2019 it is estimated that nearly 24,000 students will have completed the Futurewize programme.

Futurewize is aligned with the strands of the Junior Cycle science curriculum, and the physical, biological, and chemical worlds; and Earth and Space complement government policy including the aims of the Action Plan for Education 2016-2019 and the National Skills Strategy 2025.

Having trained role models from industry working with 13-14 year olds in their own classrooms once a week for five weeks, Futurewize aims to show Junior Cycle students the importance and relevance of STEM related subjects. These role models from industry share their own real-life experiences as they work through the Futurewize modules.

Research on the ‘role model effect’ has indicated the strong influence that a positive role model, particularly for girls, can play in changing perceptions and dispelling gender-stereotypes in STEM careers.

Speaking at an event titled ‘The Importance of Role Models in STEM’ which was held to coincide with the launch of the 2018-2019 Futurewize programme, Helen Raftery, CEO, Junior Achievement Ireland, said: “A volunteer from the ‘real world’ has significant educational impact in helping students to see the relevance of their studies and their post-school choices.

“Entrepreneurship education programmes such as Futurewize, which are delivered by role models from industry and business complement the work of our teachers by providing opportunities for skills development as well as introducing students to a range of career possibilities.”

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