Smart Futures and Futurewize STEM initiatives reach 24,000 students
Over the last three years, the Futurewize and Smart Futures initiatives have reached 24,000 students nationwide. Run in partnership between Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and Junior Achievement Ireland (JAI), the initiatives were designed to inspire second-level students to explore the possibilities that the study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects can bring.
Designed by JAI, the five-week Futurewize programme has been facilitated by 350 trained volunteers from STEM-related roles. To give junior cycle students an insight into the world of STEM, industry role models share their experiences in the field with the pupils. With a 65% female participation rate, bridging the gender gap in STEM-related fields is a key focus of the initiative.
“I have seen first-hand how the Futurewize programme is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn more about STEM subjects in a fun, interactive way and also be inspired by positive role models from industry who can provide them with an insight into what it is like to work in STEM related organisations,” said Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, Futurewize Ambassador and assistant professor at the UCD School of Mathematics & Statistics.
Through Smart Futures, 500 STEM volunteers have discussed their careers with second-level students to ignite greater interest in the field. The once off workshop is often supplementary to Futurewize.
“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,” said Ann Butler, director of development at JAI. “Entrepreneurship education programmes such as Futurewize and Smart Futures, 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.”
Commenting on its support for the Futurewize programme, Dr Ruth Freeman, director of science for society in SFI, said; “Joining forces with SFI’s Smart Futures Programme, Futurewize demonstrates the diverse STEM career opportunities available to students in Ireland by creating a space in which they can interact with superb role models. We hope that engaging with positive role models will empower and inspire young people to start thinking about their future study and career paths, allowing them to kickstart their journeys towards becoming the innovators of the future.”