British Science Week (BSW) is a ten-day programme of science, technology, engineering and maths events and activities taking place from 10th to 19th March across the UK for people of all ages. If you’ve been considering a career in one of these areas, but are unsure about what you need to succeed, read on!
Of all the STEM subjects, maths is the one that is often dismissed as boring, but it plays a really important role in technology and the economy in general. Maths enables people to solve real-world problems and, if you choose to study it, can equip you with lifelong and useful skills. There are many careers on offer for mathematics students (for example, did you know that to be an astronaut you need a really good understanding of maths?). Maths is surprisingly flexible and offers a range of high-paying careers. Many employers require candidates to have a basic maths qualification, so it is really important to ensure that you have a good GCSE to give you the best options in the future.
In an increasingly technology-driven world there are more chances than ever to start off your technology career, and many different pathways to doing so. In additional to traditional study, there are many opportunities to ‘do it yourself’ and learn the basics, particularly in the field of digital technology. If you have a particular area of interest, it is worth spending some time researching and even teaching yourself some of the foundation work, just to be sure you like and enjoy the area before you specialise in it. Many tech-focused companies offer internships, work experience placements, apprenticeships and graduate programmes, giving you the ideal launch pad for your future tech-based career!
There is no single way to qualify as an engineer. All involve a mixture of study and on-the-job training and there are different pathways depending on where you want to go. Engineering jobs typically offer very attractive salaries, job security, travel opportunities, the chance to challenge yourself intellectually and also benefit society at the same time. Going on to higher education is not the only way to start your engineering journey. If you are between 16 and 25 years old, you can opt for an advanced apprenticeship in many sectors such as manufacturing, construction, transport and utilities (water, gas and electricity). This provides a mixture of on-the-job training (usually leading to a level three National or Scottish Vocational Qualification) and vocational education (leading to a Technical Certificate such as an Edexcel National Certificate or Diploma). More information about these requirements can be found at the ECUK website, www.engc.org.uk
If you have got an investigative mind and a passion for science, you could work in many different areas such as animals, chemicals or in sport, depending on your interests. Good GCSEs (or their equivalent) are an essential step to beginning a career in science. Without these, it’s not usually possible to enrol on a training course, be accepted as a scientific apprentice or move on to further education. Maths and English are considered essential and at least one science qualification would be a helpful start. However, not everyone who works in science could be described as a scientist; there are many important jobs which don’t need a long commitment to training and education but which perform an equally important role. Health care science is a particularly accessible route for individuals who don’t want to study for a degree.
People from all walks of life can get into STEM subjects
“You can achieve anything with a bit of confidence and hard work”
Left school already? Didn’t get the qualifications you’d hoped for? It’s never too late to retrain and pursue the career that you are passionate about. Young mother Jessica Suter demonstrates that people from all walks of life can land their dream career through hard work and determination.
Miss Suter, whose education was cut short during high school, left with limited qualifications but never gave up her passion for science and is about to graduate with a degree in biochemistry from The Open University. She now wants others to know that people from all kinds of different backgrounds can get into science.
With the STEM fields being historically dominated by men or those with strong academic records, Jessica is keen to encourage others from diverse backgrounds to get into science. She is holding Eaton Park Science Day for young people, hoping to inspire others to pursue their science dreams and get rid of the stereotypes which are standing in the way of equality and diversity in the field.
The young mother of two said: “Equality and diversity are things that I strive for, and being someone with an undesirable academic history and from a low socio-economic background who has managed to make it into science, I can’t stress enough the importance of good solid advice and self-trust. Through organising Eaton Park Science Day I will be able to truly promote the fact that people from all walks of life are welcome in the field of science and actively encouraged by those who are established in the field.
“When you are faced with adversity or are conscious of your academic record, the thought of achieving your dream career seems distant, vague and hopeless. Over the past three years I have demonstrated to myself that this is not the case at all. The journey is tough, you meet many obstacles along the way, but with perseverance it can be done. Through university, I will be gaining a degree, but most importantly I have gained self-acceptance which has revolutionised my life. That is what I ultimately want to achieve for other people who have been in my situation, and Eaton Park Science Day is a fantastic first step.”
Miss Suter advocates that your educational background or bad life experiences shouldn’t hinder your career prospects. There are plenty of alternative routes to gain training, experience and qualifications in STEM, so it is never too late to pursue your career goals. She advises checking with local health care employers and STEM institutes such as The Royal Society of Biology for skills and training advice and courses.
A WORD OF ADVICE…
Bola Fatimilehin, Head of Diversity at the Royal Academy of Engineering, says:
“Pay attention in class and do not get distracted by peers who are less interested in making the most of the opportunity to learn. Focus on getting good grades in maths and science in particular, and ask your teachers, family and friends about engineering and the different jobs engineers do. If you can, find an engineer to act as a mentor, talk to them about your aspirations and get their advice. Visit www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk to find out more about engineering and engineering careers. You might also find help and support at www.generatinggenius.org.uk.”