Reaching out to Outreach

Posted on 01/11/2017 by IED

How can young people seeking to enter engineering get sound careers advice? IED Chair Tania Humphries-Smith believes there is much that can be done by way of expert help and guidance

In my last ‘View’, I reported on my adventures as a judge at TeenTech – the organisation co-founded by the current IED President Maggie Philbin to “help young people understand the opportunities in the science, technology and engineering industries, no matter what their gender or social background”. This, along with looking at the theme of next year’s EPDE Conference (abstracts due in November!) at the Dyson Design School –

‘Diversity or Conformity?’ – got me thinking. I wrote in my last comment piece that many young people entering engineering, in particular, seemed to get their careers advice from family members who were already in the profession, and how engineering and other STEM subjects were not well understood by the general public. Initiatives like TeenTech bring experience of STEM subjects directly to a diverse group of young people and, indirectly, their parents.

On a much smaller scale, I manage an outreach provision in my own university that sees one of our Product Design graduates taking practical exercises into schools, as well as providing careers advice about Product Design and Engineering. This activity is focused on around 18 local schools identified as having pupils from diverse and less affluent backgrounds, and has been conducted with years 7 and 8 pupils for four years now, with a fifth just commencing. To date, the provision has provided 45 workshops per year, reaching around 1,000 pupils every year.

Many schools now come to us requesting not just workshops, but attendance at Careers events and even a workshop for parents. The practical nature of the provision is particularly important in the face of decreasing opportunities for pupils to take Design & Technology, as heavily reported in the press1, due to loss of workshop facilities in schools and changing priorities in the curriculum.

Feedback received from teachers includes this kind of comment: “I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU for Friday. The children had such a brilliant day and, looking through the feedback surveys they completed, they really enjoyed your session ... They liked that it was hands on and they thought your presentation was really good. It was great, because some of these children didn’t know you could go to university and study subjects like product design.I thought you were great with the children; you were informative, friendly and interesting.I have even had parents comment on how great it was!”

And feedback taken in two schools indicates that more than 80% of pupils who attended these workshops went on to select a design-related subject for their GCSEs. This really does demonstrate the importance of outreach activities to our profession.

1http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/03/10/design-technology-gcse-axed-nearly-half-schools-survey-finds/

https://www.designweek.co.uk/issues/22-28-august-2016/gcse-results-bring-light-10-drop-students-taking-dt/

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