Young Scientist organisers call for an early approach to meet increasing demand for STEM graduates

Organisers of the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, have suggested that Ireland needs to take an early, more rounded, approach to fostering an interest in STEM with students. This comes as this year’s Leaving Cert results show an increase, under the new marking scheme, of student securing top level marks in STEM subjects such as physics, chemistry, biology, technical graphics, and maths.

The exhibition is one of Ireland’s largest STEM education events.

Shay Walsh, managing director of BT Ireland, said yesterday: “BT Ireland, on behalf of the BTYSTE, would like to congratulate all students who received their results today and to commend them for getting through what is often described as the toughest exam of your life. We would also like to use this opportunity to once again remind schools and parents of the importance of encouraging students to take an interest in STEM when they are young so they are confident and comfortable progressing to third level STEM education.

“Our research found that of the students who took part in BTYSTE in recent years, 77 per cent of those surveyed continued on to study a STEM subject in third level education," he added. "This shows that engagement in initiatives, like BTYSTE, are important, particularly at second level, to nurture and retain interest. Such a holistic approach to science education is vital to increase the number of people working in STEM.

“BT Ireland is very aware of just how important STEM education is for Ireland, particularly when, as estimated by the American National Science Foundation, 80 per cent of jobs globally within the next decade will require science, technology, or maths skills," Mr Walsh continued. "Ireland has an enormous opportunity ahead of it, as we are already seen as leading the way in innovative developments. However, if we do not ensure an increase in the number of students taking STEM subjects, we will struggle to remain competitive.”

Dr Tony Scott, co-founder of the BTYSTE, said: “We need to inspire young people and show them that science and technology is exciting and fun, and can open doors to amazing opportunities. By fostering this early interest, we would hope that they grow up with a natural interest in STEM subjects and a desire to explore them further. Here parents and teachers can play an important role in encouraging young students to take a greater interest in science and engineering subjects. I believe that participating in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition can be an important step to foster and grow this lifelong interest in STEM.”

Director general of Science Foundation Ireland and chief scientific adviser to the Government of Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson, said: “This time of year is always stressful for everyone involved: students, parents, and teachers alike. Everyone wants to know how students performed in STEM subjects, often looking at failure rates and rising points. Instead we need to focus on what is key for Ireland’s growth as a leader in science, and promote their engagement with science education. As Ireland continues to make a name for itself as a tech hub, we need to ensure the next generation is engaged and skilled in STEM, and this will give them the best opportunities for the future. I would encourage parents and students to look at SmartFutures.ie for information on STEM study options and careers opportunities.”

BT Ireland has supported the Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition for the past 17 years and continues to advocate for greater concentration on STEM education. The deadline for the 2018 exhibition is September 25, and students are being encouraged to consult the BTYSTE website where they can find top tips, past projects, and best practices.

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