A recent project run by Kings College London (KCL) revealed that while many children in the 10 – 14 age group enjoy science and consider themselves to be good at it, very few aspire to a career in STEM. The primary driver for STEM-focussed aspirations appears to be the level of what KCL term ‘science capital’ within a family: scientific qualifications and interest, and inside experience of the business and industry; in other words, high science capital is strongly correlated with knowing someone who works in a science-related job. Those with lower science capital frequently expect science to be the sole preserve of those with high exam results, but also to be male and middle-class.
A recent research study also asked parents which future job opportunities available would be the best career choice for their child. The study, published in Engineering UK – The State of Engineering, found that 18% of boys’ parents mentioned science and technology, compared to nine per cent of girls’ parents. 11% of parents would choose a career in engineering for their son while one per cent of parents would pick it for their daughter.
“We believe it’s important for schools, particularly girls’ schools, within the independent sector, to build STEM role models and ambassadors and to help broaden the digital skills pool by encouraging the next generation into exciting and challenging tech careers and demonstrate to our young women the benefits of working in a healthy UK digital sector,” says Rebecca Dougall, Head of St Helen and St Katharine in Abingdon. “Women are under-represented at all levels in the digital sector, especially in decision-making positions. And this is a sector which is growing rapidly, creating about 120,000 new jobs each year.
“As a leading independent girls’ school, we have an obligation to ensure that our students have every career opportunity open to them when they leave school, routes which match their talents, capabilities and aspirations and the digital sector is certainly one in which smart, creative and ambitious young women can flourish”.
It appears that it is still an uphill battle, but one which this school is pursuing.
“With the growing need to inspire more young women into STEM-centred and digital technology careers and a specific focus on the increasing value of apprenticeships, we are absolutely thrilled that sixth form student, Molly Liddell, has won a place on this year’s hugely competitive and prestigious 12-month Google Digital Marketing Apprenticeship,” enthuses Rebecca Dougall. “Molly’s parents have been hugely supportive of her decision to delay university to make the most of this incredible opportunity to join one of the best companies in the world and to develop the skills and experience that could prove to be the launch pad for a global marketing career.”
Molly is one of just 14 young people selected for a 12-month paid apprenticeship programme, from over 1,000 who applied globally. Following a gruelling selection process in April, in which Molly’s skills were tested to the limit, she was offered a place and will start in the Google DoubleClick Ad Exchange team in July.
Sarah Comerford, head of careers at the school, concludes: “The work within our Careers Department reflects a whole school ethos and mission to inspire and champion excellence for all of our girls in the career path they choose. Central to the work we do is developing awareness of emerging and differing opportunities and career paths, alongside traditional routes, to maximise each girl’s individual strengths, talents and potential. With the UK needing 750,000 more people with digital skills to capitalise on jobs that could boost the UK economy by 12 billion pounds, we know that the emphasis on careers, such as those with Google, rooted in excellence in STEM subjects, will only continue to grow.”