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”.
Dr Anne Looney, Dean of DCU Institute of Education said that “the programme, unique to DCU, gives future teachers opportunities to see beyond schools into new and emerging forms of work, and to bring that experience to the children and young people they will teach. They bring their experiences and connections from their internships into the classrooms, schools and communities they join in September, and to their teaching career into the future. It’s an exciting development and one we want to grow in DCU.”
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.”
Mr. Bernie Capraro, Silicon Technology Research Manager at Intel Ireland said: “Programmes such as this one, which are grounded in real and practical experiences of modern workplaces, are a great way to prepare our future talent. Whilst we may not know the exact jobs that the future will rely upon, we can be fairly certain that most of them will be underpinned by technology so having a first-hand experience of how technology is driving the workplace of today is absolutely invaluable.”
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.