Engaging with science, technology, engineering and maths

By admin - Last update

Get Daily news and updates directly to your Email

Last Thursday, April 17, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton launched a three-year plan designed to get more students involved in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subject areas. But how does this plan aim to incentivise students to take up STEM subjects, and why is doing so important?

Science Foundation Ireland’s three-year Smart Futures plan has set its sights on increasing student participation in STEM subjects by 10 per cent by 2016. The increase is certainly optimistic but, done correctly, it is also highly achievable.

Finding a way to replace the stereotypes of what STEM subjects involve will be essential to encouraging more participation.


However, to achieve such an ambition the plan must overcome what is surely the greatest hurdle to STEM involvement; namely, students’ perceptions.

Whenever the STEM subjects are given a mention in the media – and that is quite often – it is in the same breath as jobs and economic growth. Even at the launch of Smart Futures, Minister Bruton couldn’t seem to help himself repeating what’s now been said so often as to inspire no more than obliviousness.

‘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.

‘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.’

Smart Thinking

All of this is undoubtedly true, but is it likely to inspire more students to move towards STEM areas?

Speaking as an ambassador for Smart Futures, Clare hurler and science student 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.’

The appeal of STEM subjects should not be restricted solely to their economic benefits.

Exactly. Espousing economic and monetary benefits hardly does justice to the subjects themselves. What’s needed in order to challenge students’ preconceptions is greater and sustained engagement with the subjects and how they can directly influence day-to-day living.

Thankfully, the Smart Futures plan seems intent on safeguarding this engagement. Included among its aims are:

  • Increased 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
  • Support students and parents in decision making related to STEM careers and further study
  • More talks from industry leader and careers roadshows

Yes, jobs and economic growth are the obvious benefits of having a STEM-savvy student population and workforce. But incentives should not be solely monetary. Having expertise in these areas can lead to major benefits to society in areas such as health, communication, education and social integration.

The stem’s already well-rooted. Students now need to envision the bloom.


University: A man's world?
Sporting success: PE in the Leaving Cert


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We'd love to send you the latest news and articles about evening classes, further learning and adult education by email. We'll always treat your personal details with the utmost care and will never sell them to other companies for marketing purposes.

Comments and Reviews Policy