Before I signed up and completed the course to be a STEM ambassador, I had no real experience of either discussing my career or running a STEM workshop with students. I’d always been keen to give something back, but I was also quite nervous about my lack of experience so to be honest, I was looking for an activity to ease me into my role. Fortunately, one of the local schools got in touch with our company about a STEM afternoon they were having for their S3 pupils – jackpot!!
The format suggested by them was straightforward – a range of companies and professions were invited to send a profile for a few representatives, ideally across a range of disciplines. For the first event, we had a mechanical technician, a mechanical/project engineer and me, a chemist representing the company. The profile questions were drafted by the school and based on the responses of all the professionals, the pupils then indicated which of us they’d like to talk further with. Pupils were grouped into squads of 3 and 4 appropriately and prompted as part of one of their scheduled classes to think about the types of questions they’d like to ask – everything from a bit more elaboration on what you do in your job, to what you studied in school and even your work life balance!
On the day of the event, the professionals were arranged in the school hall such as to maximise interactions with those groups of students who had requested to learn more about you, and each group was given 5 minutes at that table. Whilst the students come armed with their pre-drafted questions as noted above, what works well for such an event is that often they pick up on something in your reply which leads them to ask something they hadn’t thought of originally. And because the groups are so small, it encourages those students who would otherwise feel a little shyer compared to their peers to speak up and ask any questions they may have.
Finally, there is always some time allocated during the afternoon for essentially a “free” session where the students can wander throughout the room to perhaps engage further with professionals they’ve already spoken with, or indeed those they may not have considered initially. Since the professionals tend to set up at their stations with banners and information leaflets, or even the odd demonstration, it’s amazing how these can pique students interests whereas the biography perhaps didn’t draw them in as much. Given the enthusiasm from the students for this event, it’s usually a good opportunity for the professionals to give their voices a break too!
This event has been running for nearly 10 years now and I’m genuinely gutted if I can’t make it. It’s a reasonably straightforward concept and in my opinion is a great way for someone to get involved in talking about STEM who hasn’t had much experience previously.