By Oscar Michel, Masters in Journalism, DCU
AbbVie, the global biopharmaceutical company, launched a report on August 2nd highlighting the lack of appropriate STEM education for Irish students. It also outlines actions to increase interest and engagement in STEM education and careers.
The report STEM Paths – Steering Students to Success explores the negative impact this trend could have on Ireland’s talent pipeline, particularly in key pharma and biopharma sectors.
The most recent Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Science in Ireland Barometer survey highlights that that 70% of the students surveyed believe that STEM is too specialised for them and 52% refused to study STEM because of the way it is taught.
Irish students are not considering the positive paths available in STEM.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects need more attention in schools and role models that are working within STEM careers need to be profiled and highlighted more to students to show what can be achieved. Reports show that there is a negative perception of science in schools and so, students are reluctant to choose these subjects to study them further.
The report, developed by AbbVie explores how companies, educators, professional bodies, and other interested stakeholders could work together with the common goal of ensuring a consistent pipeline of STEM-educated employees for this key Irish industrial sector.
Caroline McClafferty, HR Director with AbbVie said: “Our aspiration is to help Irish students better see the potential that undoubtedly exists for successful, fulfilling careers utilising STEM disciplines in Ireland, with locally-based companies such as AbbVie. As a research-driven innovative company, we believe it is important for us to be proactive on this matter so we can ensure a talent pipeline is in place for all companies active in STEM areas. A key objective for AbbVie across Ireland is to help transform, promote and support STEM-related projects and activities and we are already interacting with schools, colleges and industry partners to achieve this ambition. However, the recommendations of this round table certainly provide new approaches to help companies like ours improve long-term engagement in science and we will certainly look at how we can incorporate this guidance into our activities.”
AbbVie supported the initiative because the company wished to explore why females, students and young people continue to avoid STEM subjects in school despite there being a diverse array of high quality opportunities with Irish-based companies in this vibrant sector.
Margie McCarthy, Head of Education and Public Engagement with Science Foundation Ireland said “The report identifies how partnership is required to effect real change in STEM career uptake, in particular amongst young girls. Demonstrating commitment to this effort AbbVie has joined forces with over 200 partners in the national Smart Futures programme. Only through these partners is www.smartfutures.ie able to provide young people and their parents’ access to STEM role models, real people with exciting career stories.”
A 2015 Accenture report, surveying 1,500 girls aged between 11 and 18 and 2,500 women aged 19 to 23 from Ireland and Britain highlighted that 30% of the women surveyed felt STEM subjects were better “fitted to boys” brains, personalities and hobbies.
The key recommendations from the STEM Paths – Steering Students to Success report were to create a closer working relationship with media to highlight young role models, especially females working within STEM disciplines. A greater exposure to the biopharma industry is also needed and a better interaction with third and fourth level students to encourage them to think beyond academia to consider industry career opportunities.
Commenting on the importance of talent development Matt Moran, Director, BioPharmaChem Ireland said, “AbbVie is to be highly commended for this initiative – in my experience, whenever companies invest in engaging with graduates the inevitable consequence tends to be an increase in the uptake of graduates into the sector. In the present environment moves such as this by AbbVie can only help to ensure that Ireland stays to the forefront as a location for science and technology graduates to find rewarding careers in.”
The STEM Paths report is available here.