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Enterprise Advisor, Jacqui Donnelly takes the lead on developing a suite of STEM interviews with Tees Valley employers

Jacqui Donnelly, Enterprise Advisor from Achieving Change at Hurworth School, Darlington has been working with the Career and Science Leads to bring STEM careers to life and embed employer encounters into the science curriculum.  

Hurworth were keen to develop careers learning opportunities for students by linking the science curriculum learning to careers by focusing on making the learning more applied by using real world examples linked to local employers. They needed support on how to: 

  • educate both curriculum staff and students of the priority growth sectors in Tees Valley 
  • Increase students’ knowledge and awareness of how to pursue a STEM career 
  • enthuse and raise confidence of Year 9 students and above to pursue STEM routeways, encouraging the adoption of taking up separate science at GCSE by all and especially female students. 

To address this, Enterprise Advisor Jacqui identified she can assist and add value through: 

  • Her experience and knowledge of the STEM sector to show how since is used in the world of work throughout a range of companies 
  • Introducing other business contacts both businesspeople and organisations with knowledge of sectors to contribute to activity within science subjects 
  • Having experience of and knowing people who have a story to tell and can demonstrate the impact of the subject and pathway they took for their career 

It was agreed to create a suite of 15–20-minute video interviews with diverse STEM role models from across Tees Valley. Using a ‘storytelling technique’ Jacqui was looking for representation from a range of roles, backgrounds, ages, experience, gender, and ethnicity that can be embedded into the curriculum. 

Jacqui Donnelly said “I wanted to inspire the young people in the region about the roles and careers within the STEM industry which offers highly skilled and well-paid jobs. Tapping into my existing network, with fun Year 9 questions that we videoed, was the perfect way to do this not only during Covid but to give access to as many students in the area as possible.”  

Because of the pandemic, employer engagement has been a challenge due to the curbing of face-to-face encounters so virtual was opted as the best method of intervention. Therefore, it was imperative there is significant interaction between the employer and students to make it meaningful. Year 9 students were briefed and tasked with developing a list of questions linked to science careers to form the content of the interview. 

It was important the videos are informative, humorous and promotes informal learning by portraying a very human and honest portrait to bring the sector to life through showcasing a relatable ‘role model’. The questions are student-led and highlights the relevance of science and evolving STEM jobs in today’s world, tomorrow and beyond. These questions were sent to the employer in advance in their raw form with no editing before filming took place via the platform, Zoom.  

A pilot interview was created as a trial for future interviews with Steve Bagshaw CBE, who talks about his career as a Chemical Engineer, his experience and ending up on the UK Covid Task Force.  A further two video interviews have since been created, one with Lucy Foley, Head of CPI, Darlington who demystifies stereotypical assumptions around genders and what type of person would work in a STEM role, and one with Dr Jen Vanderhoven, Director of the National Horizons Centre, Darlington. In her interview, Jen brings to life someone who enjoyed a biology journey. The messages in the video focus on; the jobs that are on the doorstep and the high salaries, dispelling that all science jobs are in the labs, gender equality in the industry, doing what you enjoy and doing your best!  She also talks about degree apprenticeships in the region and choosing to work for inspiring people.  

These videos have then been embedded into lesson planning and used as a basis to stimulate discussion and debate in lesson and have been positively received by curriculum staff and students alike in terms of improving attitude to learning and confidence in STEM subjects. They have also been shared wider across Tees Valley schools to support the achievement of Gatsby Benchmarks 2, 4 and 5 and can be found here.