West Lothian embarks on quest to encourage schoolgirls into STEM

Businesses and partner organisations plan to inspire female pupils to consider STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers which traditionally have a lower level of female participation and engagement 

Schoolgirls across West Lothian are being urged to consider apprenticeships and careers in the STEM sector subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as they consider their future learning paths in their final school years.
At a recent event jointly hosted by Skills Development Scotland (SDS), in partnership with West Lothian College and the Regional Developing the Young Workforce Group, the organisations pledged to do more to highlight the career opportunities open to girls studying STEM subjects and, in future years, hope to see hundreds of new entry-level positions, including apprenticeships, paid work experience posts and graduate jobs being available for them.
The event, hosted at West Lothian College, female S3 pupils from Armadale and St Kentigerns Academies took part in a range of interactive, engaging, hands-on activities designed to attract more young women in to STEM industries which, traditionally, has had a lower level of female participation and engagement.
The event had support from local businesses Dacoll, CodePlay, Almond Engineering, West Lothian Council and Sky, who took the time to network and engage with the pupils to demonstrate the diversity of the career options available within the STEM arena.
Arlene Nicol, project liaison officer, Developing the Young Workforce, said: “Companies across West Lothian and working in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) need to highlight the variety of careers available to girls in STEM disciplines and encourage them in every way possible way.
“These local companies showcased their businesses and spoke to girls about the immense benefits of STEM careers. It was important to highlight how empowering these subjects can act as a springboard to future-proofing career prospects. I would urge more companies to work together to encourage female participation in the STEM areas and highlight the variety of jobs available when it comes to making career choices.”
As well as showing the attending pupils that careers in the STEM sector are accessible and attractive, the event also aimed to raise awareness of Apprenticeship routes and the career progression opportunities that exist through the range of vocational pathways in these industries.
Scotland employed a record number of Modern Apprenticeships last year, with 25,818 young people having the chance to work, learn and earn.
The latest available statistics show that more than a third of new Modern Apprenticeships were in STEM areas from April 2015 to April 2016. However, women continue to be significantly underrepresented in relation to STEM Apprenticeships and, with STEM sectors anticipating future skills gaps, there is a clear need to attract more young women into these areas.
Nicola Swan, equalities adviser at SDS, said: “Through working in partnership with key local businesses, West Lothian College and the Regional DYW Programme, we wanted to show female pupils that careers in STEM are a viable and rewarding option. Our experience shows that Modern Apprenticeships are an excellent route in to meaningful and diverse job roles, and the experiences that local employers and their apprentices shared on the day was invaluable in supporting this message.”
As Scotland’s national skills agency, SDS played a lead role in initiating this pilot, with involvement from both the Careers Information, Advice and Guidance (CIAG) and Equalities teams.
Involvement from the Regional Developing the Young Workforce Group was also key, whose main aim is to forge strong and sustainable links between business and education as part of Scottish Government’s strategy for significantly reducing youth unemployment.
Dacoll, Codeplay, Almond Engineering, West Lothian Council and Sky played a vital role in showing the positives of working within the STEM sectors, with female representation from their workforces on the day helping to inspire these pupils to reconsider their options.
In addition to having the opportunity to network with employers, the options for learning and progression within the industry were brought to life by the staff at West Lothian College, whose interactive sessions included insight into forensics and solar energy.
Helen Young, depute centre head of Computing and Engineering, said: “West Lothian College is committed to strengthening the pipeline of learners from schools (primary and secondary), to college, to employment and on to Higher Education.  By hosting this event the College can successfully showcase that STEM education is given prominence by creating new, innovative and flexible methods of learning and ensuring that the girls who attended today were inspired by the positive and successful role models who were able to show them what can be achieved by pursuing STEM related careers.
“The feedback from the pupils on the day was extremely positive, with pupils feeling more confident both about the contribution they could make in the STEM world, and their routes in to these careers.
With these pupils now considering a career in STEM, the success of the event demonstrates the impact of local partnerships collaborating with businesses to change the dynamic of Scotland’s future workforce.”
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