What is STEM? Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths

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Students Encouraged To Look Beyond Science Stereotypes When Making CAO Decisions

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has called on Leaving Certificate students considering their CAO options to avoid ruling out science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) courses simply because of misperceptions or stereotypes.

According to new research conducted by Amárach Research as part of SFI’s Smart Futures programme, students’ main concern when making their CAO choice is whether they will “fit in”, ranking it higher than other factors like career prospects.

Dr. Ruth Freeman, Director of Strategy and Communications at SFI, said “We know that there are a number of stereotypes about STEM careers that may discourage a student from choosing these subjects for their Leaving Cert, or as part of the CAO. The reality, however, is that there is a huge variety of careers in areas like technology or science. There are exciting prospects for STEM graduates in well paid roles that are making a real difference to our society. From 2004 to 2014 employment in ICT companies grew by more than 30% and salaries in these companies are 29% above the national average.”

“Given that one of the most frequent conversations with anyone sitting their Leaving Certificate over the coming weeks will be what they are choosing for the CAO, we want to ensure that students are fully informed before making their decisions. Sometimes potential career routes aren’t as obvious to students and parents when thinking about science, technology, engineering or maths. SmartFutures.ie offers the opportunity for students and parents to read profiles of people studying and working in a variety of exciting areas like pharmaceuticals, cybersecurity, data science and biotechnology.”

Exploring Career Paths
smart futuresThe Smart Futures programme, which is managed by SFI Discover and coordinated in partnership with Engineers Ireland, is an online resource for students and parents, featuring real life STEM career stories and video interviews with people working in a diverse range of industries. Students are encouraged to visit www.SmartFutures.ieto explore different career paths before making CAO and career decisions.

The main findings of the survey include:

  • 62% of all students surveyed said that ‘fitting in’ was the most important factor in deciding what to study at third-level
  • This was even more important to female students, with 65% highlighting it as their biggest influence
  • Career prospects were found to be the second most important factor (56%), followed by academic reputation of the college (28%) and entry requirements (23%)
  • The influence of parents was rated as less significant at 19%, and even less influential were school career guidance/teachers (13%)
  • 51% of students felt STEM courses offer good career prospects
  • 84% of STEM third-level students surveyed were confident they would find a job they enjoy after college
  •  91% of students agree that STEM is important for the development of the Irish economy

Role Models and School Visits
A great way to introduce students to real people working in science and technology is to invite role models from industry and research to come into the classroom. Smart Futures offers free career talks from STEM volunteers. Teachers, TY coordinators and guidance counsellors are encouraged to visit www.smartfutures.ie/about/school-visits or contact smartfutures@sfi.ie for more info.

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