• 4th class and 4th year highlighted by Engineers Ireland as pivotal points in the education system for STEM engagement
  • 86% of engineers believe that parents, teachers and career guidance counsellors can do more to break down the societal barriers to girls studying engineering-related subjects
  • Call for further engagement comes as the number of students sitting Leaving Cert STEM subjects in 2018 (based on 11 subject areas) did not increase for the first time in several years
  • Engineers Ireland launches new initiative, STEPS Young Engineers Award, for 3rd and 4th class pupils
  • Engineering Your Future programme now open for registration for Transition Year students

As the school year commences for students nationwide, Engineers Ireland is calling on teachers to prioritise Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) in the classroom. The professional body for engineers in Ireland has issued the call for action at the start of the school term as the number of students sitting Leaving Cert STEM subjects in 2018 did not increase for the first time in several years.

Engineers Ireland has been an advocate for STEM education for many years, coordinating the STEPS programme, funded by the SFI Discover Programme. The not-for-profit strategic outreach programme promotes interest and awareness in engineering as a future career to school students through a portfolio of projects.

Today, the organisation launched the STEPS Young Engineers Award to find Ireland’s future engineers. The new competition encourages third and fourth-class pupils and their teachers to explore the world of engineering by developing an engineering project that would help to improve their local community. Schools are encouraged to invite local engineers, or sign up for a STEPS Volunteer Engineer, to visit their classrooms to gain an understanding of the role of engineers in their communities and get feedback on their projects.

Encouraging parents and teachers to inspire students in the classroom, Caroline Spillane, Director General of Engineers Ireland said: “STEM fields are currently transforming how we live and how we work. An understanding of these subjects is vital to addressing global challenges, such as climate change, and to informing public decision-making in our democracy.

“Additionally, many of the core engineering traits and behaviours such as curiosity, exploration, creativity and problem-solving overlap with the principles of early childhood education. We must encourage educators to inspire their students, particularly young girls, to equip themselves with an adequate knowledge of STEM in their formative years,” she added.

A recent survey by Engineers Ireland by their members found that 86% of engineers believe that parents, teachers and career guidance counsellors can do more to break down the societal barriers to girls studying engineering-related subjects. Ms. Spillane continued: “This conscious and unconscious bias needs to be addressed among teachers, parents and indeed wider society, as now, more than ever, we need to show educators and students that the world of engineering is open to everyone - girls, boys, creative thinkers, curious minds, problem-solvers and leaders.

It is our hope that the STEPS Young Engineers Award will assist teachers to engage third- and fourth-class pupils to explore the fascinating world of engineering before societal and gender barriers manifest, creating negative implications for future study in these areas,” she concluded.

Transition Year students are also encouraged to register for the Engineering Your Future (EYF) programme, which opens on 17 September. Established in 2013, EYF is a week-long, hands-on programme which provides Transition Year students with a meaningful experience of engineering through activities such as workshops, group projects, and industry visits. The programme has helped approx. 80% of students to decide their CAO choices, with 64% of the 2014 cohort currently studying STEM at third level. This year students will be able to take part in the programme with a number of third level institutes nationwide and with industry, including ESB and Aer Lingus.

Margie McCarthy, Interim Director of Innovation and Education at Science Foundation Ireland, commented: “By supporting initiatives like STEPS Young Engineers Award and Engineering Your Future through the SFI Discover Programme, we are able to engage with young people and inspire them to pursue further study and a career in STEM. Encouragement in the classroom in these early formative years and the opportunity to engage with industry and academia through Engineering Your Future has the potential to spark a curiosity that could end up being a lifelong interest or career for many.”

To register for STEPS Young Engineers Award or Engineering Your Future, visit: www.steps.ie