13 March 2013

Arm yourself with skills

Want to design the future and get a head start on the career ladder?

Studying STEM subjects is the way forward according to the Daily Telegraph's William Ham Bevan.

With technology impacting on every element of 21st-century life, the future has never been brighter for those studying STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

But old stereotypes die hard. Ask a class of 14-year-olds where they think maths and science can take them and the same cliches crop up: the socially awkward computer geek or the scientist hunched over his test tube, a neat row of biros in the pocket of his white coat.

When it comes to engineering, the misconceptions are even greater.  Civil engineer Elizabeth Orchard recently won a STEM net award for her role as a STEM Ambassador, which involves visiting schools to talk about her career.  "When I ask the pupils what they think I do, the most common response is, 'You fix dishwashers and washing machines.' I have to explain that engineers are designers and problem solvers at heart. They require innovation to push the boundaries of technology and help create society as we know it."

For an insight into the wide range of possibilities open to those with a STEM education, a trip to the Big Bang Fair (http://www.thebigbangfair.co.uk/home.cfm), which takes place from 14-17 March at ExCeL, London, is highly recommended.  

Now in its fifth year, this free event has interactive stands, activities, workshops and shows to interest pupils and students between the ages of seven and 19.  An impressive range of employers representing the diversity of STEM careers is on hand.  You can find out about building a jet engine, taking control of a nuclear reactor, predicting the weather or formulating lip balm.

Showing how science and engineering can take you far beyond well-worn career cliches is the mission of Paul Jackson, chief executive of EngineeringUK, which runs the fair.

"We try to challenge stereotypes," he said.  "For example, civil engineers don't just  build bridges - they might be involved with supplying clean water to people in sub-Saharan Africa and saving lives.  And today's hospitals are packed with diagnostic tools that are pieces of hi-tech engineering kit."

Science is too important not to be a part of popular culture - Professor Brian Cox, physicist

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