Research has found that teachers are key influencers of students’ subject choices, second only to parents. Through the internships, pre-service STEM teachers will gain hands-on experience of the many careers and opportunities available within STEM industries. This, in turn, will empower them to inspire future generations of their own students, particularly female students, to engage in STEM subjects and careers.
In 2016, Dublin City University, Accenture and the 30% Club launched a pilot internship programme aimed at highlighting the careers available in STEM to pre-service STEM teachers as well as giving them hands-on experience of STEM careers in a corporate environment. Through the support of the 30% Club and Connecting Women in Technology (CWIT) group, the programme has been expanded to more companies and over the past four years, 57 students from the BSc Science Education, BSc Physical Education and Mathematics/Biology, BEd Primary Teacher Education (specialising in Digital Learning, Science and Mathematics) and PME Masters in Primary & Post-primary School Education at Dublin City University have completed a twelve-week paid internship across twenty companies – Accenture, AIB, Alexion, Bank of Ireland, Ericsson, Gas Networks, Ervia – Irish Water, EY, Fidelity International, Fidelity Investment, GE, HPE, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, PWC, SSE Airtricity, Virgin Media, Vodafone and Xilinx. DCU Academic Coordinator for the programme Eilish McLoughlin, Associate Professor/Director of the CASTeL research centre for STEM Education explained, “The impact of this programme is such that it extends and deepens these teacher’s competences and knowledge of STEM and enhances the teaching and learning of STEM in their classrooms/schools. The 57 participating teachers will teach STEM subjects in our schools and inspire over 20,000 primary and 185,000 second level students during their teaching careers.”
“Young people are the key to solving global challenges and that a solid math and science foundation coupled with skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and problem solving are crucial for their success. Also, as a leading technology company, we depend on the future availability of skilled workers, a healthy technology ecosystem and knowledge customers, all of which are underpinned by initiatives, such as this STEM internship program, that allow students to experience and explore project based learning linked to science and technology”, explained CWIT Ireland (Connecting Women in Technology) programme coordinators, Shalini Hollingum and Jennifer Mc Kenna. DCU Academic Coordinator for the programme Deirdre Butler, Professor, DCU Institute of Education, CASTeL emphasised that, “engagement in such partnerships is critical as what teachers know and can do is the most important influence on what students learn. The importance of developing teachers’ STEM competences cannot be emphasised enough, especially as teacher quality, not funding, is the determinant factor among conditions that support the performance of the world’s best education systems”.
The STEM Teacher Internship Programme programme has received strategic partnership funding from Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover programme (2020-2021) to expand this innovative programme and enable pre-service STEM teachers from other Universities to engage in internships in a wide range of industries across Ireland. The 2020 programme has recruited nine new host organisations and seven pre-service second level STEM teachers from NUI Maynooth to participate, in addition to our DCU student teachers.
The 2020 Programme has adapted to COVID-19 and interns will work as part of remote teams developing key skills in technology, communications and collaboration, which will support them in their future teaching careers to deliver a blended learning approach to STEM education. The 2020 programme partners are: Abbvie, Accenture, AIB, Alexion, Allergan, Astellas, Bank of Ireland, Citibank, Deloitte, Ericsson, Gas Networks, Ervia – Irish Water, EY, Fidelity International, Fidelity Investments, GE, HPE, IBM, Intel, Mallinckrodt, Microsoft, MSD, PWC, SSE Airtricity, Stryker, Takeda, Virgin Media, Vodafone and Xilinx.
Dr Anne Looney, Dean of DCU Institute of Education said,
“The skills that our future teachers will acquire during their internships are more important than ever. The last few months have seen dramatic changes in schools and schooling; the STint programme takes on a new importance as part of DCU’s work of preparing the teachers of the future. Collaborating online, working in virtual teams, and the ability to design and deliver technological solutions – these are likely to be part of classroom routines for the foreseeable future. I want to thank the leading companies who have generously agreed to support what has to be an internship this year; by hosting our students this summer, you are also reaching their future students. There is no better introduction to the STEM career opportunities than an inspiring teacher who has first hand experience.”
Ms. Margie McCarthy, Head of Education and Public Engagement. Science Foundation Ireland said,
“Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support the STEM Teacher Internship Programme, which despite the ongoing pandemic, is announcing twelve virtual internships in 2020. This programme is an excellent example of industry and education working together to support future teachers to experience how STEM is applied in the workplace. It helps demystify the work of scientists, engineers and technologists so that teachers can experience the impact for themselves and transfer this knowledge to their students.”
Ms. Gillian Harford said,
“The role of teachers in encouraging next generations to understand and appreciate the value of STEM is critical to building our pipeline of future talent. At the 30% Club we are very proud to support this great example of business and education working in partnership for change.”
Ms. Paul McCabe, Executive Director Operations, Alexion Pharma International in Ireland said,
“The BioPharmaChem sector in Ireland directly employs more than 30,000 and will require more talented employees in the years ahead, with the right level of qualification, aptitude and experience. So, it is critical that industry works closely with academia to ensure we encourage, develop and support students to engage in STEM studies and careers. As such, through the STEM Teacher Internship, teachers get exposure to what a STEM career looks like and what critical skills are needed to undertake these roles. Our experience in Alexion with the program in 2019 has been highly positive and we saw how our teacher intern took their experience with them to educate their students around a future in STEM – our experience means we will continue to work with the program in 2020.”
Mr Bernie Capraro, Research Manager, Silicon Technology, at Intel Ireland said.
”Intel Ireland has been a very keen supporter of the STEM Teacher Internship programme for a number of years, and is very pleased to be involved again in 2020. The opportunity for our future teachers to witness the world of technology in a work environment will be invaluable in their future careers, as they strive to inspire the hearts and minds of our younger generation. We have witnessed first-hand how student teachers embrace these opportunities and fully enjoy their chance to work on technical challenges they may never have otherwise encountered. Their workplace experiences have made an impact on their ability to convey what scientists and engineers do on a daily basis to their inquisitive students.This year, as we continue to fight against Covid-19, some of the experiences may be different in terms of the workplace, but we will endeavor to ensure the programme exceeds expectations, and that the positive impact on these future teachers can still be made.”
Paula Neary, Managing Director and STEM Sponsor, Accenture in Ireland said,
“We have been conducting research into girls’ participation in STEM since 2013. Our most recent report highlights the challenges that continue to exist in equipping teachers with the knowledge to inform younger females of the opportunities presented by a STEM career. As Ireland continues to position itself as the epicentre of the world’s digital economy, we need to future proof the talent pipeline, so that half the population isn’t excluded from the opportunities that STEM presents and to this end, industry has an important role to play.”
What are the STEM teachers saying about their internship experiences?
- It has given me insight into the diverse nature of the industry in terms of the jobs, the people working there and the skills needed.
- It has allowed me to expand my knowledge and vocabulary about the competencies and processes that take place in STEM workplaces.
- Great experience to work on projects and have your opinions and ideas valued and even taken onboard!
- It’s a programme that allows us to get a valuable insight into STEM careers and be a positive role model for children in the classroom.
- The STEM internship is about learning about gender stereotypes and how to go about breaking them down for the children.
To find out more about this programme:
Watch this video to hear what our project partners have to say about their experiences with the programme.