Ways to encourage kids to choose STEM subjects

There’s always more we can do to encourage pupils to consider Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

It’s crucial to address the potential shortage of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) professionals. ITPro reports that children are shunning maths and science as they move through their educational lives, causing concern across the UK’s digital industries, including software, innovation and development companies.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. John Wright, recruitment manager at Scott Logic, a leading UK-based software development consultancy, has been reassured by a TechMarketView report stating that maths has taken over English in popularity at A-Level. So, it seems teachers are achieving visible results when it comes to encouraging children to take STEM subjects. 

Yet, there’s always more we can do to encourage pupils to consider such fields of study. Here are some tips to help achieve this:

It’s not about gender

Never forget that women may be just as interested in STEM subjects as men. It’s an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed as STEM industries are still largely dominated by men. Fortunately, a number of organisations are fighting to address this gender imbalance; companies like Scott Logic, which earlier this year announced it had trebled the number of females in its  technical roles in just 12 months.

Encourage participation in extra-curricular activities

Many recruiters will stress the importance of an individual’s extra-curricular interests when hiring, and so should schools and colleges. 

This is especially useful for children with an interest in STEM subjects, so they can keep up to date with developments in technology and current thinking, not just learning new skills but keeping those skills fresh. The reality is that no A-Level will cover the full range of skills required for a STEM role or a particular technical degree. And there are many courses children can take which will help them improve and expand their relevant knowledge, such as Code Clubs, which use volunteers to teach software development in schools, or online tools like Code Academy and Scratch.

Keep on learning

To choose one A-Level subject over another, children need to feel passionate about it, and to be shown the potential career path it may take them down. Some subjects may point towards obvious occupations, but STEM subjects can be seen as difficult, dry and ‘nerdy’ or ‘uncool’. High-profile personalities like Bill Gates or Steve Wozniak can help remove this sort of stigma.

Many businesses will share their own employee stories, to help children to understand what a job in STEM might be like, and the career possibilities available. For example, Scott Logic’s ‘Our People’ section of its website is dedicated to this, with real information from its software developers and testers, and user experience (UX) designers.