Showcasing STEM careers

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SEPA staff at STEM event

Paul Ryles, a SEPA Hydrologist, was one of three scientific staff we sent to the Glasgow Green Jobs Fair at the Glasgow Science Centre in September this year, to promote STEM careers within the green sector. He describes how he and fellow scientists, Pauline Lang (Ecology) and Tanith Allison (Chemistry), contributed to promoting STEM jobs to the pupils who attended.

With a recognised shortage of expertise in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known as the ‘STEM’ subjects) it is important to encourage school children along these career paths. The Scottish Government, which places STEM education as a key priority for the Curriculum for Excellence, has highlighted the need to promote STEM to school children, who are the future of Scotland’s young workforce (a recommendation from the Wood Report). It is also recognised by Glasgow City Council, who hosted their third green jobs fair in September this year.

The fair brings together a broad selection of organisations and businesses from across the engineering, sciences and green sectors with the aim of inspiring children to think about STEM-related careers before they go on to choose their subjects at school. This year, organisations  included:

  • ScottishPower
  • Viridor
  • Interserve
  • University of Strathclyde
  • Glasgow Kelvin College
  • City of Glasgow College

STEM in action

During the day, the pupils had the opportunity to move around the different employer exhibits and interact with their representatives by asking questions and getting hands-on with the displays. They were encouraged to ask questions, with the aid of a quiz sheet, which had questions supplied by each of the employers.

The Glasgow event was oversubscribed, with more than 400 S2-S3 secondary pupils from 14 secondary schools attending. Our display proved to be very popular with pupils getting the opportunity to find out exactly what our scientists do.
The activities we provided included:

  • examining algae and invertebrate communities sampled from rivers of contrasting water quality;
  • seeing how potentially harmful chemicals (that may be in the environment) can be detected using air monitoring equipment;
  • checking the flood risk to local schools and the Science Centre on the flood map.

Getting involved

Sharing our own enthusiasm by talking to the young people in attendance about science, and sparking their interest in the diversity of scientific work undertaken within SEPA, was an immensely rewarding experience. There were also some very insightful and challenging questions about the equipment on display, the work that SEPA does and the STEM qualifications required to do our scientific jobs.SEPA staff talking to pupils at STEM event in Glasgow

By the end of the event, we had spoken to hundreds of schools pupils about science and their career choices. In doing so, we have raised an awareness of STEM-related jobs in the green sector amongst this young audience.

Some feedback about the event from the teachers and pupils who attended:

“I just wanted to say how much our pupils (and staff) enjoyed this event yesterday. The feedback we have so far is all very positive and we’re confident that it will help some of our young people to re-engage in science. They were so excited and enthused on the journey home!” Springburn Academy

“Thanks for today pupils and I really enjoyed it! Thought the employers really engaged with the students.” Shawlands Academy

You can find out more about our involvement as STEM Ambassadors here.

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