Junior Achievement Ireland (JAI), a non-profit organisation which focuses on entrepreneurship education in both primary and secondary schools has today announced plans to further scale its successful Futurewize programme up to the end of 2019. Originally launched in 2016, the classroom-based Futurewize programme is aimed at inspiring young Junior Cycle students to explore a new world of career possibilities that are opened up through the study of STEM-related subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths).

An evaluation of the first phase of the Futurewize programme showed that 77 percent of student participants are now interested in studying STEM-related subjects after school, while 99 percent of participating teachers would recommend it to colleagues. On foot of these encouraging results, additional funding was secured from the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme. Designed by JAI and developed for delivery in classrooms by business volunteers, this year more than 3,500 students across 150 classes will complete the Futurewize programme facilitated by 150 trained volunteers from STEM-related roles. The programme will continue to involve no fewer than 60 percent female participation levels.

By the end of 2019, it is estimated that nearly 24,000 students will have completed the Futurewize programme in combination with the Smart Futures module, which is also promoted as a function of the collaboration between SFI and JAI.  Futurewize is aligned with the strands of the Junior Cycle science curriculum, and the physical, biological, and chemical worlds; and Earth and Space complement government policy including the aims of the Action Plan for Education 2016-2019 and the National Skills Strategy 2025.

Having trained role models from industry working with 13-14 year olds in their own classrooms once a week for five weeks, Futurewize aims to show Junior Cycle students the importance and relevance of STEM related subjects. These role models from industry share their own real-life experiences as they work through the Futurewize modules.

Research on the ‘role model effect’ has indicated the strong influence that a positive role model, particularly for girls, can play in changing perceptions and dispelling gender-stereotypes in STEM careers.

Speaking at an event titled ‘The Importance of Role Models in STEM’ which was held to coincide with the launch of the 2018-2019 Futurewize programme, Helen Raftery, CEO at Junior Achievement Ireland, said: “A volunteer from the ‘real world’ has significant educational impact in helping students to see the relevance of their studies and their post-school choices. Entrepreneurship education programmes such as Futurewize, which are delivered by role models from industry and business complement the work of our teachers by providing opportunities for skills development as well as introducing students to a range of career possibilities.  We are delighted that the Futurewize programme has delivered on its objectives to date and we look forward to scaling further in order to positively impact on even more students over the next 12 months.”

Commenting on its support for the Futurewize programme up to the end of 2019, Margie McCarthy, Interim Director of Innovation and Education at Science Foundation Ireland, said: “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support Junior Achievement Ireland in running Futurewize, a fantastic initiative funded by the SFI Discover Programme.  Joining forces with Smart Futures, Futurewize demonstrates the diverse STEM career opportunities available to students in Ireland by creating a space in which they can interact with superb role models.  Encouraging these meaningful interactions empowers and inspires young people to start thinking about their future study and career paths, allowing them to learn of real life workplace experiences and to kickstart their journeys towards becoming the innovators of the future.”

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