The 2018 STEM Teacher Internship programme was launched in DCU on October 11th.  Developed in partnership with Accenture and the 30% Club, this initiative aims to help young teachers educate future students about career paths in Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM). This year, the programme invites applications from both primary and post-primary teacher education programmes at DCU with the opportunity now extended to include students from the B.Ed Primary Teacher Education specializing in Digital Learning.  In a further boost, through the support of the Connecting Women in Technology (CWIT) group , Vodafone and Virgin Media have joined with Accenture, AIB and Intel to come on board as host companies for the 2018 programme.

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 help them to encourage participation by their own students, particularly female students, in STEM subjects. Eilish McLoughlin, Associate Professor in Physics and Director of the CASTeL research centre for STEM Education explained, “This programme offers DCU pre-service STEM teachers a unique opportunity to gain experience of working in STEM and deepen their awareness of careers and the variety of roles that STEM graduates take on in organisations. 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”. CASTeL researcher Deirdre Butler, Professor Institute of Education , whom leads the digital learning specialism in the BEd (Primary) commented, “This intern programme is a wonderful example of a Smart Partnerships which enables our student teachers to experience and understand at first-hand how STEM principles are used to design and develop innovative solutions for living and thriving in the globally connected complex world of today. By engaging with this innovative programme our students can come to appreciate the key challenges and range of expertise necessary in solving real-world problems whilst developing important skills such as creative thinking, problem solving, team-building and skilled communication”. 

Dublin City University, Accenture and the 30% Club launched the pilot internship programme in 2016.  Over the past two years, the programme has provided opportunities for eleven third year students from the BSc Science Education to complete a twelve-week paid internship in Accenture, AIB and Intel. Professor Brian MacCraith, President of DCU emphasised the national importance of this initiative, “At DCU our student teachers engage with educators who are at the cutting edge of knowledge and practice in 21st Century education, particularly in the area of STEM education. Our students, the educators of tomorrow, will have a key role to play in sparking and encouraging interest in STEM subjects, particularly amongst young female students.  Leading this programme in partnership with Accenture and the 30% Club is an important step in tackling the negative stereotypes and challenges that exist when helping young women to explore the potential and opportunities of STEM careers.” Brid Horan, 30% Club Steering Committee commented on the alignment of this programme with the goals of the 30% Club, “The 30% Club works with business leaders to increase the representation of women at senior levels.  While the reasons behind the current gender imbalance are varied, in certain sectors STEM backgrounds are important to career advancement.  Take-up by girls and young women of STEM subjects is, therefore, an important challenge.  We believe increasing teacher appreciation of STEM-related career opportunities will support teachers in encouraging girls to study these subjects.  The internship programme is a particularly effective way to do this; we are grateful to DCU and Accenture for their leadership and strongly welcome other companies taking part”. Paula Neary, Managing Director at Accenture stressed the value of this programme in addressing the challenges that they have identified through their research into girls in STEM, “Our research findings were stark and the position has not changed since we first conducted this research in 2013. The reports highlight the challenge that exists in trying to equip 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 is not excluded from the opportunities that STEM presents and to this end, industry has a role to play. The objective of this programme is to provide teachers with hands-on industry experience in the sector so that they’re better positioned to provide guidance, encouragement and bring their experience to life in the classroom.” Julie Robinson, BSc in Science Education, completed an internship this year with AIB, spoke about her intern experience and its value in her preparation as a future science and mathematics teacher, “One of the most important things I learnt from my internship in AIB was the significance of technology applied to banking. I had the opportunity to work in many different departments where I learnt a range of different skills.  I think the STEM internship is a huge opportunity for teachers, it gives us the chance to understand the wide variety of careers that subjects like science and maths offer. It has also highlighted to me skills that I can pass on in the classroom which can be of benefit to students who wish to pursue these careers.

Please reach out to the STEM Internship Programme Coordinator at Dublin City University eilish.mcloughlin@dcu.ie for more information if you are interested.

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