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UK Technology Firms Want to Inspire Children to become Scientists and Engineers

publication date: Sep 13, 2017
 | 
author/source: Sartorius

Introduction to Children Challenging Industry

Sartorius and Johnson Matthey both based in Royston, hosted an ‘Introduction to Children Challenging Industry (CCI)’ event at Sartorius’ Royston site in July 2017.

The event was attended by several local science and technology companies who wanted to find out more about the CCI programme, designed to provide 9-11-year-old children with positive perceptions of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) based careers.  

Nick Cooke, the Managing Director at Sartorius in Royston opened the CCI information event by stating: “Currently, there are fewer young people following science and engineering based careers and that’s a problem for companies trying to recruit technical staff now and in the future. This is one reason, we were so interested in being involved with the CCI programme managed by the Centre for Industry Education Collaboration (CIEC) at the University of York.”

The CCI programme, which has been running in the North of England since 1996, offers local science and technology firms the chance to be involved in inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers by giving local children taster workshops at their company, alongside classroom sessions delivered by a Primary Science Advisory Teacher.

To explain the impact of CCI workshops, CIEC Director, Joy Parvin at the University of York, who is responsible for the CCI programme gave an informative presentation at the CCI information event. Joy commented: “When asked to draw a picture of a scientist and a manufacturing company and describe the types of jobs that scientists and engineers do, the 9-11-year-old children we work with draw pictures of men working in factories with chimneys and lots of smoke and describe the jobs as a bit dull and boring.”

Joy added: “After they have taken part in CCI in the classroom and, visited a company, they draw more accurate pictures of what industrial firms look like today, where both women and men are featured in technical jobs.”  

The CCI programme, focuses on primary school children rather than those at senior school and in her presentation Joy explained why, stating: “Research has shown that by the age of 10, children start to self-identify as not STEM type people and only around 20 percent aspire to this kind of job so if we can show them at this age, what a STEM career might look like their self-perceptions can change.”

Perceptions do indeed change after participating in the CCI programme, as the children who took part recently attested. The children from Trotts Hill Primary School in Stevenage gave talks at the CCI information event about the classroom sessions and their site visit. One boy said: “I thought that a manufacturing company would look like Willy Wonka’s factory but after visiting Sartorius I realise that it is not just about being a mad scientist and slime.” Another boy explained: “I thought science and engineering was just about doing lots of writing but seeing the types of work people do in industry, I have changed my mind about what these jobs might be like.” Finally, a girl stated: “My grandad is always building things and after making part of a pipetting system, I think that I might be good at doing that too. One day, this is something I’d like to do as a job.”

This approach increases awareness of STEM based careers as Joy detailed in her presentation, explaining: “From our research at CIEC, we have seen that after participating in the CCI programme, 70 percent of children remember their site visit and 46 percent of children say they would like to be a scientist or engineer. We also have anecdotal evidence of people that have been involved in CCI studying for PhDs in science and others who now work at the companies they visited, stating that they would not have considered these careers before their CCI experience.”

So why is there a need for these kinds of outreach programmes to be run by industrial companies? Su Mennie, Primary Science Advisory Teacher at the CIEC, detailed why in her talk at the CCI information event, stating: “In recent years there has been a larger focus on learning English and Maths. In some schools, Science is now taught under a topic heading which can impact on the amount of time it is allocated on the curriculum. This reduced time, in conjunction with a written evidence focus, can make it impossible for teachers to carry out in depth practical investigations. Taking part in the CCI programme, is a marvellous opportunity for children to learn in a hand-on way, while their teachers can assess their progress and investigative skills by observing them during a CCI workshop.”

Su continues: “From a company’s perspective, the CCI sets up site visits, does all the necessary DBS checks and helps train the company’s staff. We have been running the programme in the South of England with Johnson Matthey for four years and Sartorius for two and we have schools that keep coming back each year because they can see the value of the programme and the impact it has on the children.”

Dominic Bushnell, Manufacturing Manager at Sartorius in Royston then explained in his presentation how a company could begin running hands-on CCI site visits saying: “Initially we went to see a CCI site visit being run at Johnson Matthey and we used this as a template for ours.” Ten staff volunteers were identified whom the CIEC trained in how to communicate technical language with children and CIEC also have a list of topics with workshop ideas that match to the curriculum, which a firm can choose from. Dominic says: “Looking at the topic bank, the Cough Syrup topic resonated with us as a company because we could use one of our ambr 15 robots to show the children how you can grow microbes. This meant we could map the science in our building to activities they could do in their classroom.”

The site visit that Sartorius in Royston now runs takes 30 pupils from one school through three 30-minute hands-on activities all of which link a story together about culturing yeast. At the end of the visit, the children discuss the results they have seen in class as well as at Sartorius and then draw conclusions.

Nick Cooke closed the CCI information event, stating: “Sartorius at Royston is full of scientists and engineers who love what they do, and the CCI programme is a practical way to help our staff show primary and middle school children what it’s like working in different technical areas at an industrial company. However, we are one of only two companies in the South of England offering this opportunity and we would like to invite other firms to join us in running CCI site visits too. Sparking children’s interest now, will we believe open their eyes to the fulfilling careers they could enjoy as industrial engineers and scientists and may help manufacturing companies in the long term to recruit bright and engaged employees.”


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