Three-year plan aimed to increase uptake of STEM


Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD has launched a new three year strategy for Science Foundation Ireland’s Smart Futures initiative, aimed at delivering a 10% increase in uptake of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects at second and third level by 2016.

Smart Futures is a partnership between Government, industry and educators which provides post-primary students, guidance counsellors and parents with important career supports in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The new three year strategy aims to raise awareness of STEM career opportunities among students, parents, guidance counsellors and people who influence students by encouraging industry to play an increased role.

Launching the new strategy, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD said: “Bar none, the issue that I encounter most frequently in the boardrooms of multinational companies considering creating jobs in Ireland is talent. Equally, having access to skilled and qualified workers is hugely important for Irish companies looking to expand. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are skills and qualifications that are necessary for young job-seekers for so many of the new jobs that the economy is creating. Today, supported by my Department, SFI is outlining its three-year plan to provide more graduates in these areas. I am convinced that with proper implementation of this plan, the science, technology, engineering and maths students of the future can play a crucial role in developing the sustainable growing economy of the future in Ireland.”

Specifically the new three year strategy will:

  • Build a database of volunteers to deliver STEM career advice to all secondary schools throughout the country by training for over 450 volunteers from STEM industries and SFI Research Centres by 2016;
  • Offer industry opportunities to participate in more student outreach activities;
  • Highlight exciting career opportunities in industry to help challenge stereotypes associated with people who work in STEM;
  • Supporting students and parents in decision making related to STEM careers and further study;
  • Monitored targets for increased participation by industry, increased numbers of students and schools involved, increased numbers of careers roadshows;
  • Ultimately deliver a 10% increase in uptake of STEM students at second and third level by 2016;

County Clare’s All-Ireland Hurling Final hero Shane O’Donnell, who is studying genetics at University College Cork (UCC), has been recruited by SFI to become an ambassador for Smart Futures. The 19 year old star scored three goals in last year’s All-Ireland Hurling Final replay and quickly become one of the most talked about teenagers in the country. Shane who has almost 16,000 followers on Twitter will help Smart Futures highlight the opportunities available to young people in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Clare County Hurler and Smart Futures’ ambassador, Shane O’Donnell, said: “As a current student of Genetics at UCC, I have a huge passion for science. I feel it’s important to challenge the negative stereotypes about people that work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I’m excited to encourage students to consider a career in STEM, which can be very rewarding; offering a chance to make a difference in the world and contribute to society in a meaningful way.”

Dr. Ruth Freeman, Director of Strategy and Communications at SFI, said: “Last year Smart Futures working with our partners Engineers Ireland’s STEPS programme, PharmaChem Ireland, the Royal Society of Chemistry, ICT Ireland and the Institute of Physics and individual companies engaged with approximately 28,000 students across the country, through STEM careers outreach. The success of this strategy will be determined by the support of industry in growing a strong base of volunteers to deliver STEM career talks in schools. I would encourage industry to get actively involved and benefit from the training on offer for their employees, and proactively work to ensure a steady pipeline of STEM graduates for the future.”

Carmel Mulroy, Head of Public Affairs at Abbott in Ireland said: “As a global healthcare leader with a significant manufacturing presence in Ireland, having access to a strong pipeline of high calibre graduates particularly with STEM backgrounds is very important for Abbott. Because of this we see initiatives like Smart Futures as an important part of our ongoing efforts to open the eyes of Ireland’s best and brightest young minds to the possibility of a career in a STEM related industry. This process needs to start at school level and we are pleased to be part of this work, both through our existing programmes in schools and through this bigger industry-wide initiative.”

Calling on all industry stakeholders to get involved, Deirdre Kennedy, Corporate Citizenship Manager at IBM Ireland, said: “Smart Futures offers IBM and other industry partners the opportunity to coordinate and strengthen our STEM careers messaging under the Smart Futures umbrella, providing schools with high quality resources, access to role models and importantly, a process for evaluating outreach activity in this space.”